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Budget proposals may mean ‘lost opportunities’ for UW

August 22, 2007 By Dennis Chaptman

Proposed cuts to the University of Wisconsin budget will compromise quality, make it more difficult to retain top faculty and hurt Wisconsin’s economy, Chancellor John D. Wiley says.

As a special legislative panel tries to resolve the wide disparities between the Democratic-run Senate and the Republican-controlled Assembly spending plans, Wiley told state legislators that adoption of the Assembly’s version — or anything close to it — would leave Wisconsinites “holding a bag of lost opportunities.”

“You can’t continue to siphon off large chunks of what makes an institution excellent, and expect it to stay excellent,” Wiley said.

The Assembly budget deals a $45.6 million cut to UW–Madison’s 2007-09 operating budget and does not provide the money needed to continue operating the campus at current levels.

“Cutting our operating costs could affect the number of librarians, tutors, advisers, financial aid specialists, police officers and custodians who provide services that help our students succeed, graduate on time and stay safe,” said Wiley.

The chancellor pointed out that UW–Madison has absorbed $50 million in cuts to base state funding during the past six years, resulting in the loss of 340 positions.

“We’ve managed cut after cut, finding creative ways to protect the quality of our instruction, research and outreach,” Wiley said. “But we’ve not been fully successful, and the latest proposal is another major threat to our mission.”

Systemwide, the Assembly’s version of the budget calls for a $120 million cut in funds needed to maintain current programs and initiatives.

UW System President Kevin Reilly and Board of Regents President Mark Bradley argued for the Joint Finance Committee version of the budget, which fully funded the System’s cost-to-continue.

“Previous state cuts have already compromised the quality of student services and contributed to the departures of talented UW professors,” they wrote to legislators. “With further reductions in state support, we will not be able to educate 163,000 students without seriously diminishing quality.”

The Assembly budget also:

  • Eliminates state tax funding for the Law School.
  • Cut $4 million from a $10 million fund proposed by Gov. Jim Doyle to retain high-demand faculty.
  • Eliminates a variety of administrative positions.
  • Does not include domestic partner benefits for state employees.
  • Deletes state funding for the Havens Center, which is housed in the Department of Sociology.
  • Eliminates program revenue funding for a new lakeshore residence hall complex and a student- and donor-funded renovation of the Memorial Union and a new Union South.
  • Removes funding for the proposed renovation of the School of Human Ecology and reduces funding for the Sterling Hall renovation.

Wiley appeared with several other System chancellors at a roundtable sponsored by Doyle in late July at which the Democratic governor called for a reinvestment in higher education.

The governor said the campuses have had to deal with repeated cuts during the last few years.

“You’ve done a very difficult job and done it well,” Doyle said. “What’s happening here is a wholesale cut. There’s no way to manage around this cut.”