UW awaits plan to balance budget

January 15, 2002

State lawmakers will return to Madison this month to deal with the state’s budget problems, and the effort could have a significant impact on the university.

As required by law, the governor will submit a budget-balancing plan to the Legislature to address the state’s budget deficit, which is expected to total more than $1 billion.

John Torphy, vice chancellor for administration, says any plan will most likely make permanent a temporary funding lapse that cost UW–Madison $1.6 million two months ago, before finding additional ways to cut the university’s budget.

“I think you can guarantee that those lapses will become permanent,” Torphy says. “There’s no question that any proposal would include an additional cut to the university system and, therefore, UW–Madison.”

Two plans have already surfaced. An Assembly Republican proposal would freeze state spending, including money for the UW System, at its 2001-02 level. Supporters say the overall plan would save the state an estimated $441 million. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have proposed a $600 million reduction in state spending, which includes a 10 percent budget cut for all state agencies, and then freezing spending at that level. The plan also freezes local spending, prohibits tax increases at all levels of government, and freezes university and technical college tuition for two years. Any additional money generated from revenue growth would help pay down the budget.

Gov. Scott McCallum says he will call legislators together for a special session to rewrite the state budget started Tuesday, Jan. 22, the day the Legislature was already scheduled to reconvene for its spring session.

Once the governor submits a plan to the Legislature, it will go the Joint Finance Committee, where the plan can be changed. After both houses approve a plan, it will go back to the governor for final approval.

“The state has a very big problem and it is a problem that will require the UW–Madison campus to be part of the solution,” Torphy says. “It won’t simply be a matter of where and how much we cut, but how we invest our dollars to benefit the state economy.”