Representatives from five state agencies, including the University of Wisconsin System, testified before the state’s budget committee Tuesday.
UW System President Raymond Cross supported Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to grant the system more autonomy under a public authority model but said a $300 million cut is “too much and too fast.”
“The proposed cut is serious,” Cross said. “We are committed to working with you to find an appropriate level of funding, now and for the future.”
Cross said the UW System is one of the most regulated in the country and that the proposed autonomy measures would “give us the means for a stable, sustainable future.”
State Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, asked how Cross planned on keeping college affordable for students.
“What are your ideas to control the rising cost of tuition and make sure that our families in Wisconsin are not … going on with student debt that is crushing?” Kooyenga asked.
In his response, Cross emphasized the funding source designated for the System in the governor’s budget would keep tuition stable and allow System officials to plan small tuition increases with more prudence.
“We would be putting all of these flexibilities at risk if we simply took the step to aggressively increase tuition,” he said.
The committee also heard testimony from Cathy Stepp, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, who spoke to members about a number of DNR initiatives and reforms in the proposed 2015-’16 budget.
Stepp stressed the importance of the DNR to economic growth in the state, while legislators questioned changing the National Resources Board, currently staffed by gubernatorial appointees that set DNR policy, to an “advisory council.”
Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers also testified on behalf of his agency, calling the proposed budget “unsustainable” and said it would hurt education quality.
“I have deep concerns over the impact of the proposed budget on the quality of education for our 870,000 public school students,” Evers said.
Tomorrow the committee will hear testimony from seven more agencies as part of a three-day series of hearings on Walker’s proposed $68.4 billion budget.