Politics

GOP expects to vote on UW budget Thursday

MADISON, Wis. - Republicans who control the Legislature's powerful finance committee are now saying they expect to vote on the University of Wisconsin System budget later this week.

Gov. Scott Walker's budget calls for cutting tuition by 5 percent and backfilling the system's lost revenue with $35 million in tax dollars. The plan has rankled Assembly Republicans, who say they don't want to subsidize tuition. They want to maintain a tuition freeze.

The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee was expected to vote on the plan Tuesday but the panel's co-chairs decided to delay action indefinitely because Senate Republicans were still debating their position on tuition.

The committee spent four hours taking votes on other portions of Walker's budget. At the end of the session co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling told reporters that the committee would take up the UW budget on Thursday. She said Republicans have made progress on the issue but declined to elaborate.

Budget panel OKs drug screen expansion

The Legislature's budget-writing committee has approved requiring about 14,000 people who apply for Wisconsin Works jobs programs to be screened for drugs.

The proposal is part of Gov. Scott Walker's state budget. The plan would require screening for drugs in order to participate in three W-2 work programs. Drug screening has been required for four other state-run work programs since 2015.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that about 56 people would test positive for drugs under the expanded screening and be referred for treatment.

Given the low numbers of people expected to be tested, the cost of expanding the screening, testing and treatment is expected to be minimal.

The Joint Finance Committee approved the provision on a 12-4 vote Tuesday.

Legislature's budget-writing panel boosts student college grant programs

College students would be eligible for more financial aid under a plan the Legislature's budget committee has approved.

Gov. Scott Walker's budget calls for increasing state grants by $5.6 million for University of Wisconsin System students; $2.6 for private college students; and $1.8 million for technical college students over the next two years. The new money amounts to a 3.67 percent increase over current grant funding for each type of student.

The dollars would come out of the state's general fund, which is built with tax dollars.

The Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 on Tuesday to approve Walker's increases as well as increase grants for tribal college students by $44,300. According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the increase mirrors the same 3.67 percent bump Walker made to the other three grant categories.

Legislature's budget-writing panel to approve drug tests for jobs programs

The Legislature's budget-writing committee is expected to approve requiring about 14,000 people who apply for Wisconsin Works jobs programs to be screened for drugs.

Co-chairs of the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee say the panel plans to approve the idea Tuesday.

The proposal would require screening for drugs in order to participate in three W-2 work programs. Drug screening has been required for four other state-run work programs since 2015.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that about 56 people would test positive for drugs under the expanded screening and be referred for treatment.

Given the low numbers of people expected to be tested, the cost of expanding the screening, testing and treatment is expected to be minimal.

Finance committee won't take up UW budget

The Legislature's budget committee has decided to put off votes on the University of Wisconsin System budget because Senate Republicans can't agree on what to do about tuition rates.

Gov. Scott Walker's budget calls for cutting tuition by 5 percent and giving the system $35 million to offset the lost revenue. It also would give the system $42.5 million in additional state aid. Campuses that do better on new performance standards would get bigger chunks of the funding.

The Joint Finance Committee was scheduled to vote on the proposals Tuesday. The panel's co-chairs, Rep. John Nygren and Sen. Alberta Darling, told reporters moments before the panel met that it would not take up the UW budget after all.

Nygren said Assembly Republicans wants to continue a tuition freeze rather than cut rates and use the $35 million for other purposes. Darling said Senate Republicans are still debating what to do with tuition. But she said they agreed the system would not see a reduction in state aid.

It's unclear when the committee may return to the UW System budget. It must address the system's spending plan before it can send the budget to the full Legislature for votes.

Budget panel to consider UW tuition cut, performance funding

The Legislature's budget committee is slated to consider whether to cut University of Wisconsin System tuition and tie campuses' state aid to new performance standards.

Gov. Scott Walker's two-year budget calls for keeping tuition frozen and then cutting it by 5 percent in the second year. He would give the system $35 million to offset the cut.

Walker's plan also would supply $42.5 million in additional state aid to the system. Schools that do well on a number of performance metrics, including affordability and time to degree, would get bigger chunks of money.

The governor's fellow Republicans have been skeptical of the tuition cut. And research has shown performance-based funding formulas haven't consistently improved four-year graduation rates.

The committee is set to vote on the measures Tuesday evening.


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