Glenn Grothman discusses UW budget cut

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Glenn Grothman discusses UW budget cut

Premiere Date: 
May 23, 2013

Glenn Grothman discusses his approval of UW System budget changes.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

But first, good news for student pocketbooks. But bad news for the bottom line of the UW System. The joint finance committee came out swinging at the UW portion of the state budget last night in a bipartisan vote, the committee slapped a two-year tuition freeze on the system. It's the first two-year freeze in the system's 42-year history. In the process, the committee cut about $160 million in state funding compared to what was originally proposed by Governor Walker and university officials. It approved new, broader legislative oversight of the university, and in light of recently announced system cash reserves, the committee voted to require the university to absorb $90 million of added costs over the next two years. Now these changes must be approved by the full legislature. Republican senator Glenn Grothman of West Bend is a member of the legislative joint finance committee, and he's here tonight. Senator, thanks very much to be here.

Glenn Grothman:

Glad to be on the show.

Frederica Freyberg:

Oh, good. Explain to viewers across the state why this committee took this action in the UW’s budget.

Glenn Grothman:

First of all, I want to disagree that we were harsh. I mean I think the type of people who wanted to be very gentle with the UW really carried the day. You've got to remember, Governor Walker out of the chute was incredibly generous with the UW. I think in the first year of that budget Governor Walker wanted to give the UW an 8 or 9% increase in taxpayer funds. So when we say there was–  being difficult, that's not true. The UW, even under last year's budget, over about the last three years, was banking about $70 million a year. And that was despite the fact if you talked to the students on the campuses, they find the campuses pretty wasteful. So, you know, despite that, we didn’t cut tuition, and tuition went up over 11% over the last two years, so I was disappointed we did not cut tuition. But we gave them a freeze. They’re going to continue getting this amount of tuition, and actually they’re going to be getting some more money for what they call compensation reserves for paying increases for their faculty.

Frederica Freyberg:

So what you are saying is you would have gone further?

Glenn Grothman:

Oh, right. And I don't think anybody, any serious person, really felt this was a difficult budget for the UW. I mean, to give them more money when they are actually banking about $70 million a year on a not very efficient system is not tough.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, might this have been different, though, in joint finance, given the governor's proposed budget had there been more transparency on the system's part about these reserves?

Glenn Grothman:

If we knew about the reserves in the first place Governor Walker wouldn’t have giving them big spending increases. And Governor Walker wouldn’t have been trying to allow the Regents to raise tuition however high they wanted. When it became apparent they had a lot of these reserves and the reserves were going up, and still they were insisting on pounding the kids for another two years of increased student loans, I think the governor and the legislature had to react.

Frederica Freyberg:

Is it the reserves themselves or most especially the tuition reserves?

Glenn Grothman:

Well, the tuition reserves. That's a portion of the reserves for their accounting, and it just showed, that despite the big tuition increase, or with the big tuition increase over the last two years, when the UW was saying to the kids, oh, sorry, we need these dollars to maintain a first class university system, in fact they were banking the dollars.

Frederica Freyberg:

Speaking of that though, the university, and what do you make of their argument, these reserves are modest to what they call peer institutions.

Glenn Grothman:

Well, the reserves were going up. I think you get a fixed number of reserves, and they’d been there for the last ten years, that's one thing. But to pound the kids to up your reserves seems a little bit odd. I mean I think some of these UW people, the very well paid people at the top of the food chain, or the quite frankly, wealthy, Regents do not realize how difficult this is for an average student to graduate with $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, $60,000 in debt. If you are a wealthy Regent making $500,000 a year you’d maybe don't care. But for the average person you’re really punishing them, and we’ve got to stop doing that.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now the president of the Board of Regents said that this budget picture that’s just been passed by joint finance would not be able to support their core operations going forward.

Glenn Grothman:

Well, they’re getting more money than they were last year. Are they not supporting the core right now? I mean last year, when they were running up a $70 million surplus I assume they felt they were supporting their core. Now, next year they are going to have, I think,  about $70 million a year more, I think, for operations. They’re certainly going to have an increase for operations. I would assume you can run your core. And like I said, I think if you talk to students, they took about excessive spending on maintenance, that sort of thing. And I, just coming over here today, you could still see a lot of building going on. So, I don't think the UW will have a problem supporting–  of course, as a matter of fact, that's the type of rhetoric that gets the UW in trouble. I mean good grief, right? They just ran a $70 million surplus, they’re getting an increase for giving their people raises, and say they cannot support their core.

Frederica Freyberg:

Speaking of giving people raises, System president Kevin Reilly says the legislature  has hurt the UW’s ability to decide for themselves how to pay faculty and keep them in Wisconsin.

Glenn Grothman:

Well, unlike other state employees where the state legislature signs off on some sort of pay plan, the UW wants to be different and do their own thing. And maybe some day that wouldn’t be ok. Quite frankly, it doesn’t offend me as much as some other legislators. But he wants a situation in which the UW employees are treated differently than the employees of the DNR or Department of Corrections or what have you.

Frederica Freyberg:

Don't you think that they might be hurt if they aren't able to keep their star faculty?

Glenn Grothman:

Sure. And I think we should be able to help them with that. Although quite frankly, I think they would find it easier to keep their star faculty if they came to us with a plan and saying, here are other places in which we could find that money. You know, could we dig into our excessive liberal diversity programs and take some of that money to protect our star faculty. I vote for that in a heartbeat, but refuse to tell us there is any unnecessary spending in other places.

Frederica Freyberg:

Do you think, as others on that committee believe, that System president Kevin Reilly ought be replaced?

Glenn Grothman:

Alberta Darling called for that. I think it’s a more systemic problem. I mean certainly if he’d go I'm not going to shed  a tear, but I think there has to be a–  it would be nice to get some much more conservative people up there in a wide variety of positions to shake things up. As a matter of fact, what I would like to do, although we were not able to do it right now, is sometime get some sort of permanent independent group to audit and make suggestions rather than people who it's just business as usual. I don't think it's just a Kevin Reilly problem.

Frederica Freyberg:

Glenn Grothman, thanks very much.

Glenn Grothman:

I'm glad to be on the show, and it’s great to be on the UW-Madison campus.

Frederica Freyberg:

Isn't it, thank you. 


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