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Joint Finance co-chairs

Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, brief reporters prior to Tuesday's Joint Finance Committee meeting at the Capitol.

The Republican-led Joint Finance Committee will delay a scheduled vote on the University of Wisconsin System's budget amid a disagreement over Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to cut tuition by 5 percent.

The delay, on a vote previously scheduled for Tuesday, is the latest sign of tensions among the state's Republican majority as it navigates the governor's proposed 2017-19 spending plan. 

"I’m just a little frustrated with the process being delayed because we can’t come to a decision between the two bodies," said Joint Finance co-chair Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, of the disagreement between Republicans in the Assembly and Senate.

Under Walker's budget, in-state undergraduate students at UW System schools would see a tuition freeze in the first year and a 5 percent cut in the second, funded by a $35 million increase in general purpose revenue. 

The average UW-Madison student would save $464 per year under that plan. Resident undergraduate tuition is currently set at $9,273 per year at UW-Madison.

This proposal follows a four-year tuition freeze along with a $250 million cut to the system's funding delivered in the governor's 2015-17 budget. Before the freeze, implemented in Walker's second budget, tuition had gone up 5.5 percent annually since the 2007-08 academic year.

"We are proud that we were able to freeze tuition on all University of Wisconsin campuses for the past four years," Walker said in a statement. "I hope we can continue to hold down the costs of higher education to make it affordable for everyone."

Assembly Republicans favor continuing the freeze, but the proposed cut is "a no-go," Nygren said. 

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are working to reach an agreement on the cut, said Joint Finance co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills. Senate Republicans are scheduled to meet next week, she said. 

"We think it’s really important to have a strong UW System," Darling said. "We think it’s really important that it be affordable and quality, and it’s important that we have some grants in the system for our students who can’t afford it."

Emerging tensions among the state's Republican leaders were highlighted on Monday when Walker issued a series of tweets promising to veto any budget that increases the property tax, a new condition in addition to his pledge to veto a budget that contains a gas tax increase. 

Nygren, asked about the tweets, said they make for "good media." Darling said they shouldn't be interpreted as threats, adding that Walker is "not one who threatens people."

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, accused Walker of "acting like (President) Donald Trump" in a Monday interview with the Associated Press. Democrats made similar comments on Tuesday.

Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Oshkosh, said Walker was "trying to govern via Twitter."

"I think it’s whether we actually communicate with each other and get each other in the same room to begin with. I think that’s a very basic principle," Nygren said when asked why Republicans are struggling to reach agreement despite their strongest electoral majority in decades. "But we actually are making sure that we do. It’s whether or not we allow a few people to railroad the process."

Darling said it's "understandable" that with a diverse set of opinions among Senate Republicans, they haven't yet reached a consensus on the tuition cut.

UW System President Ray Cross told the Joint Finance Committee in March he would rather see the money used to fund the cut directed to pay for need-based financial aid. UW System officials have asked lawmakers to end the freeze and allow the Board of Regents to oversee tuition decisions.

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