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University offers domestic partner benefit update

May 9, 2007

UW–Madison continues to actively pursue the ability to offer domestic partner health insurance benefits to its faculty and staff.

The benefits issue is currently part of the state budget process, which UW–Madison faculty and staff are following intently, says Laurie Beth Clark, vice provost for faculty and staff programs and campus point-person for the issue.

The university remains the only institution in the Big Ten not currently offering domestic partner benefits.

On April 21, the Joint Committee on Finance co-chairs announced that the budget provision authorizing the offering of domestic partner benefits to all state employees will not be considered as part of the governor’s budget bill.

The provision will be considered as a separate item by the Finance Committee and will need a majority vote in the committee to put it back into the budget. However, the change does not end the process or change the university’s strategy with the Legislature.

The Joint Committee on Finance is only the first step in a multistep budget process that includes action by the Assembly and Senate separately before the budget is considered by a conference committee made up of members from the two legislative houses. The domestic partner benefit provision can be included into the budget at either step in the process.

According to UW–Madison figures, the costs of authorizing benefits are small, estimated at $550,000 of GPR funding Systemwide, and would finally place the university on equal recruiting and retention footing with peer institutions and other major Wisconsin companies.

Should members of the campus community want to express an opinion on the proposed budget, including the issue of domestic partner benefits, individual contact with legislators is encouraged, provided that it takes place on personal time, using nonuniversity resources, according to Clark.

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 its compensation plan recommendations to the state.

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