UW pledges to work with lawmakers on budget plan

February 20, 2001

Gov. Scott McCallum’s blueprint for the next state budget pares back the university’s funding request, but officials are hopeful that lawmakers will recognize that full funding of the Madison Initiative is a long-term investment for both the university and state.

McCallum this week presented a proposed 2001-03 state budget to the Legislature. The new governor says a slowing economy and an estimated $1.1 billion structural deficit in the budget will force state agencies and the UW System to tighten their belts.

“We clearly understand the challenging economic times of the state, the increased competition for funding, and the difficult decisions facing Gov. McCallum and the Legislature in the months ahead,” says Chancellor John Wiley.

“Full funding of the Madison Initiative is a long-term investment not only for UW–Madison but also for the entire state of Wisconsin,” Wiley says. “We intend to ask the Legislature to restore the full partnership that began with the last budget. Failure to do so puts at risk our ability to raise the matching funds from alumni and donors that have made the Madison Initiative such a successful model for public-private partnership in higher education today.”

Strongly supported by both parties and the governor in the last biennial budget, the Madison Initiative is already paying off handsomely, university officials say.

“It is a solid example of a true public-private partnership, allowing UW–Madison to maintain its margin of excellence as one of the nation’s top public research universities,” Wiley says.

Cuts could jeopardize the initiative’s future success, however. “The willingness to give to UW–Madison remains strong, but that is compromised when donors believe they are making up the difference in what should be the state’s responsibility in funding a public university,” Wiley points out.

McCallum says his proposed 3 percent and 2.9 percent spending increases in the two-year budget are the lowest spending increases in more than 30 years. The state’s structural deficit also forces sharp spending limits, the governor says.

“The nation’s economic slowdown over the past few months has forced us to revise our revenue figures downward, and these lower revenue projections pushed the deficit up to $557 million in each year of the upcoming biennium,” McCallum says.

The governor’s budget plan includes $11.8 million for the Madison Initiative. For 2001-2003, the university requested $28 million from the state, pledging to raise another $20 million from donors. The money focuses on increasing educational options for students at the UW–Madison and for enhancing economic development.

The budget plan next faces review from the Joint Finance Committee, a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the Senate and Assembly. Both houses of the Legislature also must approve a budget before the plan returns to the governor’s desk for final approval.

“We are looking forward to working with the Legislature during the spring and summer to restore the needed funds for the future of Wisconsin,” Wiley says.