By Larry Lee, WSAU Radio
STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAU) -- People sounded off at UW Stevens Point Thursday night about Governor Scott Walker’s proposed 300-million dollar UW System budget cut. The lecture room at the Noel Fine Arts Center was packed with students, faculty, and was facilitated by Representative Katrina Shankland and Senator Julie Lassa. The crowd of about 160 was entirely pro-university and anti-Walker budget.
Lassa says there are many details they still don’t know about the Walker budget, and won’t know until early next month. “It will take the (Legislative) Fiscal Bureau until the end of February to get all of their analysis done, and then the Joint Finance Committee will begin having the different state agencies come in before it and testify about their portions of the budgets, so we’re still at the very beginning, but there are a lot of details in this budget, and everyday, there’s more and more coming out in the media.”
As written, UW Stevens Point could lose up to $6.4 million dollars a year in state funding under this budget. There would also be cuts for certain programs and facilities, such as the Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility UWSP operates in Bayfield.
Both Shankland and Lassa urged the crowd to continue contacting their legislators, the Governor, and get their friends and family to do the same. Shankland says it helps to let officials know how the cuts and changes affect them personally. For now, Lassa says legislators have a lot to study before the Joint Finance Committee starts it’s work. “What’s next is we’ll continue to go through the budget page by page to discover what is in there, and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau will have their analysis out shortly, and then we’ll be doing a number of hearings around the area to gather more information not only about impact to the university, but other provisions within the Governor’s budget.”
The roughly 160 people in the crowd expressed concerns about possible program and class cuts. Some called it a dismantling and privatizing of the university system. Others took exception to Governor Walker’s comments about professors not working enough. There was also support for UW Stevens Point to implement Differential Tuition, where like all but three other UW campuses, students would pay more for local tuition so that there were enough classes available to help students finish their degrees on time. There was also concern about giving the UW Board of Regents autonomy, since over 30-thousand people might no longer be state employees.