University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross is calling Republican lawmakers’ UW funding proposal "micromanaging" and a "missed opportunity."
Cross was in Milwaukee for a Board of Regents meeting this week. It was the first regents gathering since the Joint Committee on Finance surprised UW leaders with its spending plan. The budget-writing committee voted along party lines to advance a $58 million increase for UW schools over the next two years.
That’s much less than the about $130 million boost Democratic Gov. Tony Evers proposed.
Most of the money in the GOP plan – about $45 million – is contingent on university leaders coming back to the committee with a plan for how the UW System would spend it.
“We were surprised both by the idea that we have to come back with a plan, where’d this come from?” Cross said in an interview with WUWM. “And that this was considerably less than even inflation at this point.”
Cross says to keep up with inflation, the university system would need $60 million.
But it’s not just about covering rising costs. UW leaders say they need to expand capacity in areas like nursing, engineering and computer science.
“The future of the state of Wisconsin, I think, is at stake,” Cross said. “And the long-term benefits to this state will be the result of an investment in the University of Wisconsin.”
At the regents meeting Thursday, UWM Chancellor Mark Mone explained how the Milwaukee campus has already been affected by tight budgets.
UWM is considered an R1 university – meaning it offers a research-rich education environment. But Mone says among R1 universities, UWM is near the bottom in faculty and staff pay.
“It’s very hard to diversify. I want to become a Hispanic-Serving Institution,” Mone said. “But it’s very difficult to do that if you don’t have more faculty of color and staff of color. When you’re retrenching it’s hard to grow. So that’s the crossroads we’re at.”
Members of the board of regents said they would continue advocating for more funding.
"The UW system deserves and has earned an infusion of investment," said Regent Drew Peterson, who was elected president of the board Friday.
GOP lawmakers on the finance committee have defended their UW spending proposal as responsible to taxpayers.
Meanwhile, Cross is still waiting to find out how much lawmakers might provide to fund replacement and renovation of aging facilities on UW campuses.
"We're hearing positive things [about the capital budget]," Cross said. "But I'm a bit hesitant to always believe those positive things right now."
Gov. Evers proposed about $1 billion in capital funding the UW System. So far, Republicans on the budget-writing committee have ignored the bulk of Evers’ budget proposals.
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