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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

WI GOP won't make substantive changes to budget, including funding cut to University of Wisconsin System

Republicans plan to make no substantive changes to the state budget, meaning that a cut in funding to the University of Wisconsin System that puts the entire spending plan in jeopardy of being vetoed will remain, legislative leaders said Tuesday.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has threatened to veto the two-year spending plan if UW funding for diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, programming is cut. The plan passed by a Republican-controlled budget committee reduces UW funding by $32 million and eliminates nearly 190 positions, money and staff dedicated toward DEI staff salaries and programs.

However, the budget does allow UW to come back and get the $32 million if it shows how it would be spent on workforce development efforts, and not DEI programs.

Evers also has the power to make more limited line-item vetoes, but he could not increase funding with a partial veto. Evers on Sunday told WISN-TV that he was waiting to see the final budget text before making decisions on vetoes. His spokesperson Britt Cudaback referred to those comments Tuesday when asked about the governor’s plans.

But Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu and Vos told The Associated Press in separate interviews Tuesday that no changes were planned.

Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, along with school and law enforcement leaders, have been pushing Republicans to increase funding for the state’s school safety office. That office, created by Republicans in 2018, was designed to prevent violence in schools after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The office provides safety grants to Wisconsin schools, maintains a 24/7 tip hotline, offers training and maintains blueprints of school layouts to assist law enforcement when reacting to emergencies. The Legislature’s budget committee voted to cut funding for the office this month, a move that Kaul said would essentially gut it and not allow it to provide all the services it currently does.

If Kaul wants to make a case to the Legislature later for additional funding, “we’re always willing to take a look at it,” Vos said.

Kaul said he was “certainly disappointed” that the Legislature doesn’t plan to continue current funding levels. If funding isn’t found to replace it by the end of the year, Kaul said programming that helps schools around the state may be lost.

Kaul said that all avenues to maintain current funding, including going back to the Legislature, will be pursued.

The state budget includes a $3.5 billion income tax cut for all taxpayers, a plan Democrats have derided because wealthy people will get a bigger reduction than lower earners. The budget also includes $1 billion more for K-12 public schools, additional funding that Evers secured as part of a deal with Republicans to increase state aid to Milwaukee and other local communities.

Evers signed the past two state budgets passed by Republicans and took credit for tax cuts they included.

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