As many of you
know, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) was expected to finish up their
work last Friday. The idea was that they wanted to give the Senate and
Assembly as much time as possible to debate the budget before the June
30th deadline. Even with this deadline in mind, the JFC saved several
big ticket issues like the UW System, transportation, the new Bucks
Arena, and the DNR for their last scheduled day.
But as any good (or bad) procrastinator knows, if you put off something
long enough, it is going to take even longer than you had imagined. That
is what happened to the JFC last week. They had too much on their agenda
so instead of debating all night long and into the weekend, they decided
to hold another meeting later this week.
We saw two omnibus motions on Friday, one for higher education and one
for the environment. As a reminder, an omnibus motion combines all
proposed changes into one large amendment that gets a straight yes or no
vote. This is instead of voting on each change individually. Some of
these omnibus motions are many pages in length and can take some time to
be fully understood. For instance, the UW omnibus included 70 separate
In the meantime, here is a summary of what happened on Friday:
The Governorís proposal:
The JFC omnibus:
scaled back the cut to $250 million
system would not be allowed to offset the cuts with the option they
used in the past Ė tuition increases. Instead the JFC voted for a
two year tuition freeze.
proposal, academic tenure would no longer be state law. Instead, the
UW Board of Regents would have the option to keep tenure in place or
would now have the ability to grant merit pay.
also moved the issue of shared governance to the Board of Regents,
allowing them to decide if the current system of bringing students,
faculty and instructors together for important decisions will
would also allow the UW System and certain technical colleges to
authorize the creation of new charter schools.
included cuts to programs such as the Wisconsin Bioenergy
Initiative, the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board, solid waste
research funding, and extension recycling education funding.
that were set to be transferred from the system, such as the State
Laboratory of Hygiene and the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, will
remain at the UW.
DNR Science positions
Governorís budget proposed cutting 80 positions from the DNR,
including 18 out of 58 Bureau of Science Services positions.
approved this measure.
Governorís budget would halt the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship
Programís ability to preserve state land, effectively ending the
program as it currently exists.
voted to keep the program in existence, but to reduce their spending
and borrowing limits.
Neither of these
issues were resolved in the way that people had hoped. The UW System
will still have to struggle to handle this dramatic cut and while the
Stewardship program was not dismantled, it is still hindered in its
ability to carry out its mission. I have already received many calls and
emails from people on these concerns. When the Assembly and Senate
debate the budget, I have no doubt that there will be numerous
amendments on the floor to restore full funding to both programs.
We know that the JFC will have to come back in for a meeting soon to
deal with the lingering issues of transportation and the new arena, but
as of right now we donít know when that will be.