Assembly Joint Finance Members Propose Changes to UW Budget Plan

MacIver News Service | March 18, 2015

[Brillion, Wisc…] As the legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) held its first public hearing Wednesday on the 2015-17 state budget, two members released a new plan for the University of Wisconsin System budget proposal.

JFC co-chair Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) and member Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) announced a plan that they call “responsible reform of the UW System.” The four-point plan is light on specifics, but calls for major changes to what Gov. Scott Walker had proposed.

While Walker’s plan would cut the UW System budget by $300 million over the biennium, Nygren and Knudson would like to see a smaller reduction – though the size of the cut was not specified. They also call for increasing tuition on out-of-state and graduate students and for campuses to spend down their accumulated reserves.

Perhaps the biggest distinction between Walker’s proposal and the Nygren/Knudson plan would be over the creation of a public authority. Walker called for the UW System to be split off from the rest of state government in order to operate more efficiently.

The new public authority would allow the UW System to manage itself so it could avoid the bureaucratic red tape of state government.

Nygren and Knudson claim the university system is not ready for the independence a public authority would bring.

“We believe the legislature must maintain control and supervision over the university system,” their plan reads. “While some additional flexibilities may be warranted, the University System is not ready to become a public authority.”

Legislators have been hinting for some time that the public authority proposal would not be in the final budget, but it is not yet clear how much support the Nygren/Knudson plan will have.

The MacIver News Service will provide updates as they are available. Please check back often.

The full release from Nygren and Knudson is available here.