Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday defended two of the proposals in his state budget that have brought initial criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, going as far as to compare one of them to Act. 10.
Walker stopped in Stevens Point as part of a state tour after the presentation of his $68 billion biennial state budget to the Legislature on Tuesday night. He visited Gamber Johnson, a company that builds systems for mounting electronics in vehicles that appear in police and military vehicles and other trucks, cars, vans, SUVs and motorcycles.
During the visit, Walker was asked about his proposals to cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin System, and his plans to forgo an increase to the state gas tax in favor of borrowing $1.3 billion to fund transportation projects over the next two years.
Walker said Wednesday that while the UW System cuts were large, they were different from the $250 million in cuts in the first state budget of his predecessor, Gov. Jim Doyle, because Walker's proposal offered reforms to help universities respond to the cuts. Walker said he viewed the proposal as an "Act 10 for the UW System," referring to the controversial 2011 legislation that stripped unions of the ability to negotiate for salary and benefits.
"What I mean by that is that we actually give them reforms," Walker said. "For years, supporters of the UW System have said at campus after campus that if you got us out from under the thumb of the state government bureaucracy that they could do more to save money and put it back into the classroom to be more effective. I believe our authority will do just that."
Along with the reduction of funding to the UW System, about a 13 percent decrease, Walker also has announced that he intends to keep tuition freezes in place for the system for an additional two years. He also announced he would give the system some independence from state government that should allow universities to save money. Bernie Patterson, chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, said the school would receive about $30.4 million in 2015-16 from the budget under Walker's proposal, an amount not seen since the 1980s.
On the subject of borrowing for transportation, Walker said that while the amount of borrowing would go up from $991 million to $1.3 billion, overall borrowing in his budget of $1.6 billion was well below the $3.6 billion in Doyle's final state budget and at a decade-low for the state. He added that projects in southeast Wisconsin, such as the 35-mile Interstate 94 reconstruction between Milwaukee and the Illinois state line, would be slowed down in order to address transportation needs across the state.

"I think we have been very responsible in keeping our debt load down while at the same time meeting the demands of transportation infrastructure in this state," Walker said. "I do not want to raise the gas tax to accomplish that. I don't want to add an additional burden to the hard-working people of the state."

State Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, the assistant minority leader of the state Assembly Democratic Caucus, said bipartisan concern over the UW System and transportation borrowing proposals indicates that Walker has gone too far. Shankland said she hopes that concern will lead to changes in the budget in the Joint Finance Committee. Shankland took particular aim at Walker's UW System cuts, pointing out that Walker already cut $250 million from the system back in 2011.

"This is one of the biggest issues I hear about from people across the state," Shankland said. "These cuts aren't necessary, and instead of making public education a priority he's dismantling it."