Thursday, May 28, 2015

Restoring the UW System would restore many other programs

Tomorrow we get to find out if the Joint Finance Committee's Republicans make good on their hints that they will remove Governor Walker's plans to spin off the UW System into a separate authority in the state budget. This would restore the System to what it is today, an agency with legislative control of items such as funding and tuition levels, but one of the more interesting things about removing the UW System Authority would be that a number of other decisions have to be made as a result.

That's because the System Authority would have removed a number of appropriations for individual programs that the UW System currently operates, and would have left it up to the System and the UW Board of Regents to choose to either defund and end these programs, or cut other UW funding to keep this running. So if the Authority goes under, then these appropriations would still exist. Many of them were funded from other funds that aren't related to tax dollars, but are funds that were to be "banked" with the proposed System Authority, so the balances of those funds would have to be adjusted if these programs are restored. These include the following SEG-funded items:

BadgetNet and other IT services $1,054,800 million
Rural Physician Residency Assistance Program $750,000
Physician and Dentist Assistance Loans $250,000
Environmental Programming $300,000
Discover Farms $249,800
Center for Cooperatives $133,300
TOTAL $2,737,900

There are also several environmental research and outreach programs that were going to have its separate funding go away under Gov Walker's budget, with some sizable investments being in serious danger of being removed if the System Authority were to be created. Most of these are also SEG funded, but obviously throwing money out of those funds will depelete the balances there, and might lead to tax dollars being a better source to fill in the needs.

Bioenergy Initiative $7,138,200
Wisconsin Environmental Education Board $461,000
UW Extension Recycling Education $1,100,400
TOTAL $8,699,600

There are also 3 programs that currently use $1,153,700 in Indian Gaming funds that would likely need to continue to be funded with the demise of the System Authority plans. I touched on this about a month ago when Indian Gaming funds were first being discussed in the budget, as Gov Walker was originally planning to bank this extra money into the General Fund, and leave the UW System to fend for itself if it wanted the programs to continue. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau describes what these 3 tribal-related programs deal with.
The Department of Administration transfers funds annually from tribal gaming receipts to the UW System for the following purposes: (a) the physician and dentist and health care provider loan assistance programs ($488,700); (b) the [Ashland, Wisconsin] aquaculture demonstration facility ($417,500); and (c) programming at UW-Green Bay ($247,500). (related to the nearby Oneida Nation). These funds are deposited in the UW System's program revenue appropriation for funds transferred from other state agencies.
So while it's not as big a deal as trying to restore some of the $300 million cut to the UW System, these separate programs are almost $12.5 million in combined funding that weren't in the budget, and if the JFC doesn't choose to come up with that money, a lot of these UW-backed community programs, outreach and research (which is the definition of the Wisconsin Idea) may well go by the wayside.

Lastly there is the lingering question of how to pay for the benefit costs of UW employees. With the UW Authority being set up to start in 2016, the plan was to give $21.3 million as a one-time bump to take care of added salaries and fringe benefit costs, then cut that $21.3 million out of the next budget and have the UW Authority figure it out. But if the Authority doesn't happen, and the UW System remains as a typical state agency, then this idea sort of goes out the window. In addition, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau points out that the proposed freezing of in-state tuition for the next 2 years brings another complication, because many UW jobs are funded through tuition revenues, and those benefit costs are still going to go up, even if the tuition doesn't.
The Governor's budget would freeze tuition for resident undergraduate students in both years of the 2015-17 biennium, which would prohibit the Regents from increasing tuition for those students to generate the tuition revenues required to fund the tuition portion of increases in fringe benefit costs during the biennium. Because additional tuition revenues would not be available to fund the tuition portion of fringe benefit costs for UW employees during the 2015-17 if the tuition freeze is approved, the Committee could provide additional GPR funds to cover these costs. Based on data provided by DOA, it is estimated that the tuition portion of the fringe benefit cost increases would be $3,219,600 in 2015-16 and $5,435,900 in 2016-17.

14. The Governor's budget would permit the Board of Regents to increase tuition rates for nonresident undergraduate and for all graduate and professional students. In April, 2015, the Board of Regents approved tuition increase for the 2015-16 academic year for nonresident undergraduate students and resident and nonresident graduate students at La Crosse, Milwaukee, Parkside, Platteville, Stevens Point, Stout, and Whitewater. In addition, the Regents increased per-credit tuition for graduate cost recovery programming in the School of Education and implemented a surcharge for international undergraduate students at Platteville and eliminated the tuition plateau for four graduate programs and approved a tuition rate equal to tuition for the Master of Business Administration program for the new Master of Science in Computer Science program at River Falls. The Regents also approved tuition increases for nonresident undergraduate students and for resident and nonresident graduate and professional students enrolled in certain programs at Madison in 2015-16 and 2016-17. The graduate and professional programs effected by the tuition increases are the School of Business graduate programs, the Global Real Estate masters program, the Doctor of Pharmacy program, the Doctor of Medicine program, the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program, and the Doctor of Nursing Practice program. In addition, the Regents approved a surcharge for international undergraduate students at Madison.

15. According to the Board of Regents documents, the tuition increases and other changes approved by the Board in April, 2015, are estimated to generate additional tuition revenues of $24.6 million in 2015-16 and $44.0 million in 2016-17. Of these amounts, $21.0 million in 2015-16 and $40.4 million in 2016-17 would be generated by UW-Madison. These additional tuition revenues could be used to fund the tuition portion of increases in fringe benefits during the 2015-17 and other costs. However, increases in nonresident undergraduate and resident and nonresident graduate and professional tuition were not approved for all UW institutions. These institutions, which include Eau Claire, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Superior, and the UW Colleges, would not have additional tuition revenues with which to fund these costs.
So that could mean another $8,655,500 that has to be sent back in, on top of the $150 million-a-year cut to base costs. And the lack of increased out-of-state and graduate tuition at many of the non-Madison schools really puts those institutions in a major crunch, because it comes on top of the fact that those schools already rely more on state funding than Madison does, due to Madison's large amounts of federal grants, donations, and self-supporting entities. So when state aid is cut like it is in Walker's budget, the non-Madison schools get hit worse.

So while the headlines for the UW System's portion of tomorrow's budget meeting will likely deal with whether the UW System Authority will be eliminated, and whether then Joint Finance Committee will add any funding back to the UW System to reduce the huge cuts Gov Walker planned in his budget (if there IS any money available), these special funds and the compensation left over for UW employees will be a factor in these decisions as well. And it's yet another area where Gov Walker has left the heavy lifting to the Legislature to figure out, with a whole lot of Wisconsinites having their current employment and educational situation being thrown into turmoil in the process.


  1. Really love your writing and detail. Interesting note about the UWGB gaming receipts (I work at GB). The Chancellor has already indicated that that money is gone. However, in describing its use, he said that money simply went to athletics, not Oneida specific programming.

  2. Chuck. Thanks for the kind words. The LFB paper talks about it some, and it seems to involve Oneida-related content that comes on during GB Phoenix basketball games (I haven't been to the Teach Center, so I don't know).

    For the record, the UW omnibus does include those 3 Tribal-related items (it even adds $100K for Acquaculture), but doesn't fubd the Bioenergy and other environmental initiatives. Guess that's how this crew rolls