State Budget Update


June 1, 2015

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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 provisions.

In the meantime, here is a summary of what happened on Friday:




The Governorís proposal:

  • The Governorís budget proposed a cut of $300 million to the University of Wisconsin System and increased autonomy and flexibility.

The JFC omnibus:

  • The JFC scaled back the cut to $250 million

  • The UW 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.

  • Under the 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 not.

  • The system would now have the ability to grant merit pay.

  • The motion 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 remain.

  • The omnibus would also allow the UW System and certain technical colleges to authorize the creation of new charter schools.

  • It also included cuts to programs such as the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative, the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board, solid waste research funding, and extension recycling education funding.

  • Programs 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 omnibus:

DNR Science positions

  • The Governorís budget proposed cutting 80 positions from the DNR, including 18 out of 58 Bureau of Science Services positions.

  • The JFC approved this measure.



Stewardship program:

  • The Governorís budget would halt the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Programís ability to preserve state land, effectively ending the program as it currently exists.

  • The JFC 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.




State Representative

94th Assembly District



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