Walker Proposes 13% Funding Cut to UW System, in Exchange for Greater Autonomy

Jan 27, 2015

Credit Dave Reid, Flickr

Gov. Walker says he’s giving university leaders what they’ve wanted for years.

Walker came to Milwaukee Tuesday to announce his plan to help the Bucks build a new basketball arena. While here, he agreed to answer a few questions about a much larger proposal in his budget. Walker wants to cut the UW System’s budget by $300 million in exchange for giving the system autonomy from state government.

Under the plan, the UW System would no longer be bound by state rules governing such things as purchases or employee compensation. In exchange, the system would have to operate with a fixed amount of money from the state.

“Giving a long-term block grant commitment to say the state will provide this amount and then in the future be adjusted for the consumer price index. They will know going forward what they get from the state and the taxpayers. They will know how to become…I think it’ll make them more effective, more efficient and ultimately more accountable to the taxpayers of this state,” Walker says.

The UW system might have to cut deeply during the first two years. Walker’s plan would reduce state funding by nearly 13 percent, while also freezing tuition. After 2017, the universities would set tuition.

The governor compared his UW System proposal to Act 10, the law that gave schools and local governments the ability to hold down public worker costs, while Walker cut state aid and capped property tax increases.

“And I think much like we saw after Act 10, for those who saw that initially as a budget reduction, it actually ended up providing great benefit to not only the taxpayers of this state, but ultimately to the people who relied on local governments as well as the state – the same thing will be true at the UW,” Walker says.

Of course, not everyone agrees that Act 10 has helped Wisconsin.

Walker is expected to detail his plans for higher education in his budget address to the Legislature Tuesday.