By Cara Henney, UW-La Crosse's The Racquet
On February 7th students, faculty, and community members gathered in the new student union to attend a press conference with Governor Scott Walker. UW-L was Walker’s first stop on a tour of several UW campuses to convey his priorities for the budget that would be announced the following day.
The Governor was accompanied by UW System President Ray Cross and UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow as he made his remarks. Both of whom commented how they were optimistic about the Governor’s proposed budget.
“The news is very welcome. I’ve been chancellor for 10 years and this is the first time a Governor has called for an increase in funding,” commented Gow.
Cross has been President of the UW System since 2014. He explained that this proposal is, “the best budget proposal we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
There are several priorities Walker wishes to address in his budget including, rural, K-12, and higher education in the state of Wisconsin. Walker asserted that his priority is, “Increasing student success for the students here and all across the state.”
By providing more funding to the UW System Walker explained he is hoping to improve the amount of skilled workers to fill the high demand for the workforce in Wisconsin.
This budget proposal includes $35 million to cover the 5% reduction in tuition costs for undergrad students. It also includes a commitment to increase the UW System budget by roughly $100 million over a two-year period of time.
Walker stated, “We want to make it affordable for people to get a degree at any of our fine university campuses.”
In regards to the budget College Republican Chair, Ben Stelter commented, “It’s great news for Wisconsin and students. It shows we are headed in the right direction.”
In 2015 Walker announced a budget proposal that faced opposition by supporters of higher education. This is due to the fact that it included a reduction to the UW System budget by nearly $300 million.
Sarah Semrad, former chair of College Democrats, explains, “I am skeptical about the Governor’s budget proposal because it only replaces so much of what was already cut by the last budget, but I’m hopeful for the UW System overall.”
Likewise, Assemblywoman, Katrina Shankland, (D- Stevens Point) stated in an interview to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “He does not deserve praise for making a weak attempt to repair the damage that he himself caused.”
In a statement sent out to UW-L students, Student Association President Jacob Schimmel wrote, “the UWL Student Association expresses its disappointment and opposition to a portion of Governor Walker’s budget proposal that would allow an “opt-out” option on allocable segregated fees. This proposal will only hurt students in the years to come if it is implemented in this year’s biennial budget.” Schimmel cited just a few of the many programs UW-L is able to have because of these allocable segregated fees, such as multicultural programs, safe ride, and music programs.
Cross also expressed that he feels there are details that still need to be worked out and analyzed, but that he is excited for this budget. He stated, “We are looking forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to bring [the budget] to fruition.”
Stelter felt the Governor coming to campus is always a good thing for UW-L. He remarked, “It’s a great opportunity for students and faculty to hear from him.” A sentiment that was also shared by Gow.
The Governor’s official budget was proposed on February 8th in Madison at the capitol.