Wisconsin governor vows budget veto if GOP cuts diversity funds from university system

by Joshua Brown
diversity funds

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has made a strong declaration, stating that he will veto the budget if Republican lawmakers proceed with their plan to reduce funding for diversity officers in the state university system. This decision intensifies an ongoing contentious dispute over funding allocations for state campuses.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos recently expressed his intention to slash $32 million from the UW System’s budget in the state’s 2023-25 fiscal period, which matches the amount allocated to diversity officers. During a news conference, Vos labeled diversity efforts as the “new religion” of liberals, asserting that taxpayers should not be financially supporting such initiatives.

In response, Governor Evers, a Democrat and former UW regent, tweeted that this proposed cut would have disastrous consequences for the UW System. He further emphasized during a visit to a cheese manufacturer that he would refuse to sign the budget if Republicans proceed with this plan. Evers criticized the irrationality and absurdity of reducing funding for the university system while the state boasts a $7 billion surplus.

Despite Evers’ strong stance, Assembly Speaker Vos remained unfazed during a subsequent news conference, expressing doubt that Evers would veto the entire budget over a single issue. Vos suggested that if such a veto were to occur, Republicans would commence work on a new spending plan in October, forcing the governor to explain why months have passed without new funding.

The ongoing tension between Republican lawmakers, who control the Legislature, and the state’s university system is not unprecedented. However, this year’s conflict centers on matters of free speech and the UW’s efforts to promote diversity and racial equity.

This disagreement reflects a wider cultural battle observed across the country concerning diversity initiatives within higher education. According to an analysis by Big Big News in April, Republican lawmakers in 12 states have introduced over 30 bills this year aimed at restricting diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in colleges and universities.

UW spokesperson Mark Pitsch stated that the salaries of current system employees dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion amount to approximately $15.6 million per year. The recent hiring of a new chief diversity officer by UW System President Jay Rothman, with an annual salary of $225,000, was not announced at a UW Board of Regents meeting earlier this month.

In response to Evers’ position, Pitsch expressed hope that the state would actively support the UW System in cultivating the talent necessary for Wisconsin’s workforce.

Currently, the Legislature’s finance committee, controlled by Republicans, is in the process of revising Evers’ executive budget before presenting it to the full Assembly and Senate for approval. If the spending plan successfully passes both houses, it would then go to Evers, who can sign it into law, use partial veto powers to amend significant portions, or veto the entire budget.

The UW regents requested an additional $435.6 million over the two-year budget, while Evers proposed granting the system approximately $305.9 million in new funding. Earlier this month, the finance committee already rejected plans for constructing a new engineering building on the flagship Madison campus. If the committee proceeds with a $32 million reduction, the regents’ funding would fall approximately $500 million short of their requested amount.

Consequently, students may face additional tuition increases as the system attempts to bridge the funding gap. In March, the regents approved substantial tuition, fee, and room and board rate increases when Evers’ budget fell $130 million short of their target request.

As of now, there has been no response from the Associated Students of Madison, the student government body at UW-Madison, to inquiries regarding their stance on this matter.

The timeline for the finance committee’s consideration of the UW System’s portion in the budget remains unclear. Originally scheduled for a vote on Tuesday evening, the committee ultimately postponed the decision indefinitely.

Senator Howard Marklein, the Republican co-chair of the committee, declined to comment on the UW budget when questioned on Wednesday morning. Representative Mark Born, the other co-chair, also refrained from explaining the reason for the delay during a subsequent news conference. It is uncertain when the committee will resume discussion on this issue.

Born emphasized that he does not believe any breakdown occurred and reiterated that the budget process involves ongoing discussions and occasional delays. He assured that the committee will address the matter when they are ready to do so.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about diversity funds

Q: What is the main point of contention between Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and Republican lawmakers regarding the state budget?

A: The main point of contention is the proposed budget cut to diversity funds in the state university system. Governor Evers has vowed to veto the budget if this cut is implemented, leading to an escalating fight over funding for state campuses.

Q: Why do Republican lawmakers want to cut funding for diversity officers in the university system?

A: According to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Republican lawmakers believe that diversity efforts have become the “new religion” of liberals, and they argue that tax dollars should not be used to support these initiatives.

Q: How does Governor Evers justify his refusal to sign the budget if the funding cut goes through?

A: Governor Evers argues that cutting the university system’s budget, particularly for diversity officers, is irrational and ridiculous, especially when the state has a $7 billion surplus. He believes that such a cut would have disastrous consequences for the UW System.

Q: How does this conflict in Wisconsin reflect broader nationwide trends?

A: The conflict in Wisconsin reflects a larger cultural battle seen across the nation regarding diversity initiatives in higher education. Republican lawmakers in multiple states have proposed bills to limit diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in colleges and universities.

Q: How might the proposed budget cut impact students and the university system?

A: If the proposed budget cut is implemented, it could lead to a shortfall in funding for the university system. This may result in tuition increases for students as the system tries to compensate for the reduced funding. The university regents have already approved significant increases in tuition, fees, and room and board rates due to previous budget shortfalls.

Q: What are the next steps in the budget process?

A: The Republican-controlled finance committee is currently revising Governor Evers’ executive budget. If the spending plan is approved by both houses of the Legislature, it will go to Governor Evers, who can sign it into law, use partial veto powers to modify parts of it, or veto the entire budget.

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BookLover123 June 15, 2023 - 12:11 am

It’s sad that funding for diversity officers is being threatened. We should be supporting efforts to promote inclusivity and equality on college campuses. Hope they find a solution soon!

TechGeek22 June 15, 2023 - 1:36 am

The clash between Governor Evers and the GOP over the budget shows how divisive politics can be. It’s disheartening to see diversity initiatives becoming a target. Education should prioritize inclusivity.

JohnDoe87 June 15, 2023 - 4:57 am

omg dis whole budget fight is cray! dem GOP wants to cut diversity funds n Gov Evers be like, no way! it’s a big mess tbh, colleges need dat funding!

SportsFan123 June 15, 2023 - 11:09 am

This budget battle feels like a never-ending game. Both sides need to find common ground and prioritize the needs of students. Cutting funds for diversity officers doesn’t seem like a wise move in today’s world.

NatureLover22 June 15, 2023 - 5:47 pm

It’s frustrating to see the budget fight affecting the university system. Education should be about nurturing talents and fostering inclusivity, not playing politics. Let’s hope they resolve this issue soon for the sake of the students.

MusicFanatic June 15, 2023 - 8:14 pm

Seriously, why would they cut funds for diversity officers? It’s important to have diverse perspectives and create an inclusive environment in universities. I hope they reconsider and prioritize these efforts.


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