Wisconsin legislators accuse Chancellor Blank of playing politics

The state Joint Committee on Finance co-chairs accused UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank of prioritizing politics in the state budget debate, according to a Wednesday press release.

The press release, from state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and state Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, criticized Blank’s handling of the proposed $300 million budget cut to the UW System.

Both legislators questioned if Blank, a “former Obama appointee,” was representing the university’s best interests or just playing politics.

“In the future, we hope to have an open and honest dialogue with the System about the budget, as no constructive conversation will come from bringing Washington politics to Madison,” Darling and Nygren said in the release.

They also discussed the benefits of the autonomy measures attached to the proposed budget cut.

“Governor Walker is offering autonomy and more flexibility in his budget proposal and instead of support, the governor and legislature are being met with divisive politics,” the co-chairs said in the release.

The flexibility measures would grant the UW Board of Regents the ability to set policy independently from the state Legislature, particularly in regard to tuition rates and shared governance decisions.

Blank expressed support for flexibility measures for UW-Madison in a statement Wednesday, but expressed concern over the size of the budget cut attached to the autonomy measures.

“As I have stated in the past, flexibilities offered through a public authority model are welcome and would eventually allow the System to function more effectively,” Blank said in the statement. “However, we continue to be concerned about the impact of a proposed $300 million cut to the university system.”

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, state Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, state Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, and state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, who all sit on the committee, requested additional public hearings on the proposed budget in a letter to the Joint Committee on Finance Wednesday.

“These cuts will have a direct effect on the economy and quality of life for our people not just next year and the year after but for decades,” Taylor said in the letter. “Our decisions matter in every corner of the state.”

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