UW System could see changes after next state budget

UW System could see changes after next state budget

Changes could be on the way for the UW System in the next state budget.

System officials and lobbyists anticipate Gov. Scott Walker may propose that the system operate with less legislative oversight and form a public authority model similar to UW Hospital.

In a post on her blog, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said UW System President Ray Cross is in charge of negotiations with the governor’s office on the budget, and that UW-Madison officials have been briefed on “what impact various budget scenarios may have on the campus.”

“I expect that the university will be facing a cut in the next state budget,” Blank said. “The magnitude of this will matter greatly for Madison.”

Blank is also trying to clear up concerns that the flagship campus will again try to separate from the system, as was proposed by then-Chancellor Biddy Martin in 2011.

“I want to be clear that there are no conversations about providing UW-Madison with any flexibility or authority that are separate from the overall system conversations,” Blank said.

When asked about details of budget discussions on the system, Assembly Speaker Rep. Robin Vos, R-Burlington, said he supported making the system a public authority. Vos said he believes procurement procedures are outdated and that the Assembly would like to find ways to do things more efficiently.

“I have been a supporter for a while of giving additional flexibility to the university,” Vos said. “I was one of the lone people on the finance committee who supported allowing UW-Madison to form its own authority and have greater control over its own budget. My position hasn’t changed.”

Vos made similar comments on the idea of tenure, when asked if getting rid of tenure was up for discussion in the budget.

“I have had no discussion of that,” Vos said. “I’ve been very up front in saying I think tenure is outdated and antiquated. I don’t think a system that says you have a job for life whether you perform or not is helpful. But that’s not something I have talked about with the governor, that’s just my own position.”

Democratic Rep. Chris Taylor said getting rid of tenure would destroy the UW System.

“If you take away tenure really what you’re saying is, we don’t want to have a UW System in the state of Wisconsin because nobody is going to come here to teach,” Taylor said.

Taylor also has concerns about a public authority model.

“My concern is anything that allows the state to abandon its financial obligation to the UW System, I would have big problems with,” Taylor said.

Vos would not say whether he plans to pursue the tenure concept this session or if he wants to see it in the budget, only that it was his personal position and it hasn’t been discussed in his caucus.

Both the UW System and UW-Madison declined additional comment when asked about scenarios they might be facing. A spokeswoman for the governor said he will be releasing details as the budget is finalized.