Governors budget proposal to include domestic partner benefits

For many years, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has actively pursued the ability to offer domestic partner health insurance benefits to its faculty and staff.

The campus community is one step closer to that goal, with the announcement that Gov. Jim Doyle would include benefits in the state budget proposal for the 2007-09 biennium.

Doyle’s plan would authorize and fund benefits for domestic partners of all state employees, including those of UW System.

UW-Madison remains the only institution in the Big Ten not currently offering domestic partner benefits, although Michigan courts recently ruled that the University of Michigan, Michigan State and other state universities would have to stop offering domestic partner health benefits. That case will likely be appealed in the Michigan Supreme Court.

“We’re pleased to have the chance to move forward on this important issue,” says Provost Patrick Farrell. “We will support this proposal through the budget process. Domestic partner benefits have a major impact on our ability to retain and recruit faculty and staff.”

In his 2005-07 budget proposal, Doyle included language authorizing domestic partner benefits for UW faculty and staff, as well as funding for those benefits. However, the provision was ultimately cut from the final version of the budget.

The new path for benefits begins with the introduction of the governor’s budget on Tuesday, Feb. 13, and moves to the Joint Committee on Finance, which will conduct public hearings and votes later this spring before sending the revised budget separately to the Senate and Assembly. Differing versions of the document will be reconciled by a conference committee, which will be approved or vetoed by Doyle. The process is likely to conclude in late summer.

In keeping with its past stance, Farrell says UW-Madison will do everything it can to support the inclusion of benefits in the final budget proposal. An attorney general’s opinion recently ruled that the passage of last fall’s marriage amendment does not preclude benefits being offered.

Simultaneously, Farrell says he has convened a working group of faculty, staff and administrators to explore alternative strategies, in the event the proposal is again cut from the budget.

The university has taken numerous steps, both publicly and privately, to work with the state to enact change on the issue. For years, UW System has been in agreement with UW-Madison and has included domestic partner health insurance coverage in their compensation plan recommendations to the state.

Farrell also announced that Laurie Beth Clark, vice provost for faculty and staff programs, will serve as campus coordinator for the issue, working collaboratively with representatives of a number of offices and individuals, including the Office of Human Resources, Administrative Legal Services, the Office of the Chancellor (including UW-Madison state relations staff), the Office for Equity and Diversity, and shared governance groups.

The university also has a new Web site collecting statements, documents, news clipping and information, to help the campus community to track the issue through the budget process.

To send a question or message to the team of administrators working on the issue, e-mail