Written by Larry Lee, WSAU Radio
MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) -- The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee decided late Friday to cut the University of Wisconsin budget by 250-million dollars instead of the 300-million dollars recommended by Governor Scott Walker.
The Republican controlled committee made the cuts, but they also gave UW Stevens Point a few victories. The campus was granted authority in the budget to institute differential tuition, where students will pay about $200 dollars more each semester to adequately staff and teach mandatory bottleneck courses that some students have returned for a fifth year to complete. Funding was also restored for the Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility plus $100,000 dollars for an aquaculture specialist, $124,000 for the UWSP Paper Science program, and the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education will be restored in the statutes under this budget.
State Representative Katrina Shankland says those are about the only parts of the budget she likes, saying Republicans are dismantling one of the best higher education systems in the country. She says these cuts will lead to layoffs, staff leaving the state, and higher tuition after 2017.
Shankland is also upset about the changes to shared governance and tenure guidelines, saying it takes away student rights, puts experienced instructors at risk, and gives chancellors more power. "This is a huge morale issue on campus. If you were to take away student's rights, as well as faculty, staff and students voices, it's a really grievous issue in my opinion, and I just think we have the best law in the country on shared governance and tenure. Why break something that isn't broken?"
The Joint Finance Committee still has to meet this coming week to discuss transportation borrowing and a potential bond issue for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena. Then, it's to the floor of either the Assembly or the Senate for consideration.
Shankland says the UW System is a promise to our people with some of the highest quality education in the nation, but these cuts put that in danger. "We deliver highly-affordable and quality education. At least we used to, and under this budget, I think not only will the cost of tuition rise over time after 2017, but it will also become more and more difficult for the UW colleges and universities to provide quality education."
Shankland says she has spoken to UW Stevens Point faculty that are looking to leave the state, and says the changes to shared governance and tenure is the Republicans fixing things that are not broken.  She says the cuts to higher education are not necessary and should not happen. "No matter which way you slice it, this is going to hurt our economy, it's going to hurt our students, it's going to hurt our employers, and it's going to hurt our families."
Shankland and her colleagues still want Republicans to accept federal Medicaid expansion dollars, which add up to more than the proposed UW cuts. She is urging constituents all over Wisconsin to keep calling their elected officials to demand full UW and long-term senior health program funding.