Sunday, May 28, 2017

UW budget already wasn't good. But JFC made it worse

I wanted to go over the 23-part omnibus package on the UW System that the Joint Finance Committee passed last Thursday. It made a mediocre-at-best UW budget into a downright bad one.

Here are a few of the items I wanted to touch on.

1. Gov Walker's budget wanted to give $21.25 million a year to the UW System for performance funding, starting in July. But the Joint Finance Committee's package only allows for money in 2018-19. There's more of it for that year ($26.5 million), but it also requires the UW Board of Regents (now filled with Walker appointees) to send over their plan for distributing the money and what measures they will use to do so. In the meantime, that's a $21.5 million cut from Walker's budget for next year.

2. The 5% tuition cut for 2018-19 is also gone, traded in for a freeze on in-state undergrad tuition over the next two years. Unfortunately for the UW, the $35 million in tax dollars that Walker's budget set aside to make up the difference for the proposed tuition cut is also gone, so the UW is going on the same amount of resources.

3. Some of the $21.25 million cut is made up with the following item.
Provide $5,000,000 GPR in 2017-18 through the UW System's GPR general programs operations appropriation to be distributed by the Board of Regents to UW institutions to increase enrollments in high demand programs. Specify that these funds would be distributed to the institutions through a competitive process involving a request for proposals.
Of course, the question is "Whose demands are the UW supposed to follow." Given the previous comments by Assembly Speaker Robbin' "Ancient Mating Habits of Whatever" Vos, I'm betting this will take the input of the WMCs and other corporate oligarchs over what students or future-visioned businesses want.

4. There are also several earmarked items for UW majors and initiatives. This includes the creation of an engineering school at UW-Green Bay, an Institute for Sustainable Technology at UW-Stevens Point, and more funding for the UW-Madison Carbone Cancer Research Center. However, the only General Tax dollars that are set aside for these purposes are an extra $980,000 to Madison's Carbone Center, and it is specifically intended for "precision medicine." The Sustainable Technology Center at Point is paid for out of the state's environmental fund, and GB's new engineering major has no money behind it, but merely asks the Board of Regents to set it up.
I guess it's better than nothing, but at some point, these new offerings need money behind them.

5. Lastly, I want to go into the biggest earmark in the UW motion- the new Tommy Thompson Center for Alternative Facts on Public Leadership. Not only does this give $3 million in tax dollars to this new organization over the next 2 years (amazingly, this is the largest one-year GPR increase to the UW next year outside of the Innovation Fund), but there is a specific line-item that directs where at least $1 million of this money goes to.
Require that annually not less than $500,000 of the amount appropriated to the Center be allocated to the Board for speaking engagements sponsored by the Center at campuses other than the UW-Madison campus. Require that the Director of the Center propose an annual budget itemizing expenditures of the moneys appropriated to the Center, including expenditures for grants to proposed recipients, which would be subject to approval by the Board. Specify that upon the approval of the Board, the Director could make substantive changes to the annual budget only with subsequent approval of the Board.
In addition to the $1 million earmarked for speakers to non-UW campuses (this would literally be state-funded speech), it's the makeup of that Board that is giving the game away that the Thompson Center is far from an honest academic study place. And that's what making an original supporter of the Thompson Center skeptical about what this is really going to be about.
The proposed leadership of the planned think tank named for former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison does not match up with political leaders’ promises of nonpartisanship, said Donald Moynihan, director of the university's La Follette School of Public Affairs.

“Our vision of Thompson center is that it will be a credible nonpartisan entity,” Moynihan messaged Friday in response to a request for comment. “The governor, speaker and others committed to that goal when they presented the idea to the public. The current language coming from the JFC falls short of that standard.”

The seven-member board would include:

•a director
•the president of the Thompson Family Charitable Foundation, Inc.
•one member who worked under the personal direction of Thompson in the state or federal government
•two members nominated by the Speaker of the Assembly
•two members nominated by the Senate Majority Leader

The nominees from the Speaker and Majority Leaders would be appointed by the governor without Senate confirmation.
In other words, at least 6 of the 7 members of the Thompson Center Board would currently be nominated by Republicans or have served with GOP governor Thompson. Do you think there's going to be a lot of discussion about the failures of school vouchers, and honest talk about climate change or trickle-down economics with that crew? Hell no.

When you put all the figures and items together in the UW measure, along with the re-estimated decline in Federal Funding at the UW (as I mentioned in this post) it means that the UW System is actually going to have a cut in total funding of $10 million for next year compared to their current base budget. And in 2018-19, a paltry $28.8 million increase in state money is almost entirely tied up in performance measures (which seem likely to hurt high-commuter schools like Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Parkside), and the $2 million earmarked for the Carbone and Thompson Centers.

Then add in the major cuts that are proposed to UW funding for Capital building projects, and this budget is every bit as bad as the previous cuts that Walker/WisGOP imposed on it, because that damages from past sins remain and the 2017-19 disinvestment goes on top of that.

And then these WisGOP clowns and their corporate puppetmasters wonder why Wisconsin is dead last for entrepreneurship and that much of the state's economy is stagnant? Look no further than the "politics of resentment" strategy that these people have made against higher education in the state, in a lame attempt to grab votes from outstate rubes. It's got to end.

No comments:

Post a Comment