Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to increase funding for the University of Wisconsin System is the best budget news UW has heard in a long time, System President Ray Cross said Thursday.
But there are still several changes officials hope the Legislature will write into the budget before it becomes law.
Lawmakers from both parties have cut funding for the UW System in five of the last six state budgets, most recently by $250 million in 2015. Walker’s executive budget, released last month, would increase funding for the System by more than $100 million in total, including $42.5 million in new money distributed based on how UW campuses perform on a range of metrics and $50 million that was lapsed from the System in the current budget.
“This is the best … budget proposal we’ve had in over a decade, and we need to be appreciative,” Cross told the UW Board of Regents.
Cross said the budget shows Walker understands the System’s value.
“We provide one of the best returns on investment for this state, and we appreciate this recognition of our critical role in strengthening Wisconsin’s economy and its workforce,” he said.
UW officials plan to keep lobbying lawmakers as action on the state budget shifts to the Legislature and its Joint Finance Committee. They hope legislators will change the budget to include more money for maintenance and renovation of System facilities and greater authority over building projects that are funded with program revenue.
“We need to work with the governor and the Legislature to adjust some of the things that we think need to be adjusted,” Cross said.
Officials want to ensure that rules for performance-based funding recognize the differences between UW campuses as well, he said, and reflect “the core values of a comprehensive and quality higher education experience.”
The governor’s budget proposal also calls for keeping in-state undergraduate UW tuition frozen for the 2017-18 school year, then cutting it by 5 percent the next year; another $35 million in state funding would replace the revenue lost from the cut.
Prospects for the tuition reduction seem dim, however, as several top legislators have questioned the proposal.
Cross did not directly comment on the tuition cut Thursday. UW officials want to reclaim their authority for determining tuition prices, and the Regents last year voted in favor of a plan that would end the freeze in the 2018-19 school year with a tuition increase tied to increases in the cost of living.