An update on budget discussions

I have heard from many of our students, faculty, staff and alumni asking for my reaction to newspaper reports that Governor Scott Walker and the UW System are discussing additional flexibilities as part of ongoing budget discussions.

Yesterday, I responded to one such email that included many recipients on campus. I thought it might be valuable to share this more widely.

UW System President Ray Cross is in charge of negotiating the items relating to the System that will be in the Governor’s budget. I have not been directly involved but I and others at UW-Madison have been in communication with System officials about what impact various budget scenarios might have on the campus. At this point no decisions have been made and it would not be useful to speculate on what might or might not be included in the Governor’s budget, which will be released on Feb 3.

Given the projections for the state budget in the next biennium, and the comments that have been made by the Governor and legislative leaders, I expect that the university will be facing a cut in the next state budget. The magnitude of this will matter greatly for Madison. We have been communicating with legislators and the Governor’s Office about the need to limit budget reductions.

Across the System, there is a desire for greater flexibility so that UW-Madison and all campuses can better manage any cuts by maximizing efficiency and having more control over revenues and expenses. Many suggestions for this have been made over the years, and I very much hope that there are some areas where we might have the flexibility to manage Madison (and other campuses) better, similar to the flexibility around our HR system which we will be able to implement on July 1 of this year. Of course, this type of flexibility would do little to offset any budget cuts in the near term.

I do want to be clear that there are no conversations about providing UW-Madison with any flexibility or authority that are separate from the overall System conversations.  There has been some misunderstanding and misreporting on this issue.

I think that all of us are aware that any major items in this upcoming budget – whether it be budget cuts or changes in management authority – will require extensive work here on campus. But it’s difficult to determine next steps until there’s greater clarity about what may or may not be in the budget proposal.

There will be many rumors swirling between now and February 3. Once it’s actually clear what the Governor’s proposed budget includes, I expect to be in touch with all of our governance groups and stakeholders to discuss the implications for the legislative budget debate and for our campus.