February 8, 2018

Budget/session accomplishments: Higher Education

This week's e-update will be the first in a series of articles focusing on legislative and budgetary accomplishments from the current session. Each week, going forward, my e-update will focus on a topic of interest to Wisconsinites. For my inaugural article, I selected higher education. Wisconsinites of every background and political party can be proud of our world-renowned system of higher education.

The following represents some of the most significant legislative and budgetary achievements, related to higher education, from the current legislative session:

  • Increased funding for the University of Wisconsin System by more than $34 million

  • Retained the system-wide tuition freeze for another two-years (a total of six-years of frozen tuition, saving the average student, over four years, $6,311)

  • Created an Early College Credit Program for high school students

  • Held the University of Wisconsin System accountable by authorizing the use of an external, independent accounting firm for audits

  • Directed the University of Wisconsin System to revise and renew their academic freedom procedures and policies

  • Provided academic credits to those with military service

  • Provided nonresident students who are members of the National Guard or a reserve unit with a tuition exemption

  • Created the Tommy Thompson Center for Public Leadership at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

  • Invested more than $209 million in infrastructure at University of Wisconsin System schools

Wisconsin Technical College System:

  • Invested an additional $4 million in scholarship grants to help move low-income students into the workforce

  • Awarded academic credits for Wisconsinites with military service

  • Provided nonresident students who are members of the National Guard or a reserve unit, with a tuition exemption

These achievements have made Wisconsin's institutions of higher learning more robust and affordable for hard-working Wisconsin taxpayers. I contend that Wisconsin's institutions of higher learning remain America's best. Recognizing their prowess, the legislature worked tirelessly to increase funding and make our higher learning institutions affordable for Wisconsin families.

Wisconsin Works for everyone

Since the 1990s, when then-Governor Tommy Thompson unveiled his state-of-the art welfare reform program known as "Wisconsin Works," Wisconsin has been a national leader in welfare reform. Thompson (1996), in describing his seminal welfare reform program, wrote, "The new system will be called W-2--Wisconsin Works and it is based squarely on work. Rather than offering welfare checks to those who do not work, as AFDC (Aide to Families and Dependent Children) does now, W-2 offers participants the opportunity to earn wages and learn how to increase their value to employers" (p. 72).

Wisconsin is once again leading the nation in welfare reform, as this week, the legislature introduced a package of bills that promote accountability, encourage personal responsibility, prevent fraud and abuse, and ultimately, get people back to work. As Governor Thompson understood in the 1990s and Assembly Republicans do today, welfare was never intended to be a permanent way of life. The aforementioned welfare reform package will open the doors of opportunity for individuals throughout Wisconsin. The "Wisconsin Works for Everyone" package will profoundly transform the state's welfare reform system and put more "Badger State" residents back to work.

Specifically, this package expands work and training requirements for able-bodied adults in the FoodShare (food stamp program) and the implementation of a photo identification for FoodShare participants. Additionally, these proposals require child support compliance as a condition of Medicaid for able-bodied adults and drug screening for the state housing program. 

Newest Representative in the 20th Senate District

This week, my friend and Washington County Board chairman, Rick Gundrum, was sworn-in as the new representative for Wisconsin's 58th Assembly District, this week. Representative-elect Gundrum (R-Slinger) is a small business owner and champion of limited government, fiscal prudence, and personal liberty. An in-district swearing-in ceremony will occur on February 7, 2018, in West Bend. Representative-elect Gundrum will officially take the oath of office and sign the historic Assembly membership book, on February 8, 2018. I look forward to working with Representative-elect Gundrum.

Representative-elect Rick Gundrum (R-Slinger) taking the oath of office.

State of Wisconsin Blue Books

Copies of the 2017-18 State of Wisconsin Blue Book are still available. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of this year's Blue Book, please contact my office: Rep.Rob.Brooks@legis.wisconsin.gov or (608) 267-2370.

Have a great week,

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State Capitol Room 309 North-PO Box 8952, Madison, WI 53708

(608) 267-2369

Email: Rep.Rob.Brooks@legis.Wisconsin.gov