Republican lawmakers scaled back another piece of Gov. Tony Evers’ education funding plan this week: support for the University of Wisconsin System.
The Democratic governor is seeking a $126 million increase for UW schools. But the GOP-dominated budget-writing committee settled on a much lower number — $58 million.
It follows the Joint Committee on Finance's decision last week to chop Evers' K-12 spending plan by more than half.
At a meeting Tuesday, the committee agreed with Evers on continuing an undergraduate tuition freeze at UW schools, which has been in place for six years. But Evers wanted to 'fund the freeze' with $50 million to make up for the lost tuition revenue. The finance committee declined that proposal, amid fierce criticism from Democratic colleagues.
“You cannot continue to handcuff the UW System on tuition without paying for it,” said Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee.
Republicans also cast aside Evers’ plans to provide $45 million for student success initiatives, $10 million for a nurse educators program, and $5 million for student advising and support at two-year colleges.
Instead, the committee wants to offer $45 million in what it calls ‘capacity-building’ dollars. But – there are strings attached. UW leaders would need to come back to lawmakers with a plan showing how they would spend the money.
Committee Co-Chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, defends the proposal as responsible to taxpayers.
“Yes, it doesn’t provide money for a nurse education program. It doesn’t provide money for counseling at UW colleges,” Nygren said. “However, it is my objective, and as I’ve talked to President Cross, was to provide them with as much flexibility as possible with a certain amount of accountability from this committee.”
Nygren was referring to UW System President Ray Cross. Cross was not happy with the finance committee’s $58 million increase.
In a statement, Cross calls the Republicans’ plan "shortsighted" and a "missed opportunity," noting that the funding boost doesn’t keep pace with inflation.
Evers has veto power over the budget presented to him by the Legislature. Evers said on social media that the finance committee’s offer is not what Wisconsin kids deserve.
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