With tensions wearing thin in the dispute over the New Badger Partnership, one legislator proposed delaying consideration of the plan until after the passage of the budget bill.
Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, offered a plan for resolution between University of Wisconsin-Madison and UW System officials that included removing all provisions relating to the New Badger Partnership from the biennial budget.
In a letter to Joint Finance Committee members, Nass suggested the Senate and Assembly committees begin public hearings on a separate bill for administrative flexibilities once the Legislature approves the 2011-2013 Biennial Budget.
Nass, who serves as chair of the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, also suggested the UW System’s Wisconsin Idea Partnership be used as a starting point for granting new flexibilities to campuses, a provision that would retain the Madison campus as a member of the UW System.
Mike Mikalsen, spokesperson for Nass, said members of the committee also want new accountability measures for universities as they receive greater autonomy.
He said the proposal comes after growing opposition to the New Badger Partnership has become increasingly evident on the Madison campus and nearly unanimously across the UW System, with committee members also encountering difficulty in garnering support from both party caucuses.
“New Badger Partnership is hanging by a thread to have widespread support,” Mikalsen said. “It has not been well-delivered to the campus and was not brought well to the Legislature.”
Allowing the issue to be considered as a stand-alone bill would require a separate committee and public hearing process that such a matter required, he said, a process which would likely be abridged in the midst of the larger issues contained in the budget.
UW System spokesperson David Giroux said while officials agree with the use of the Wisconsin Idea Partnership as a starting point for flexibilities, administrators disagree on the proposed time frame for the measure.
He said preventing any UW campus from “spinning off” aligns with the thinking of System officials, who have also advocated additional accountability measures as campuses gain flexibilities.
“One area we disagree is timing. We continue to believe all campuses need new administrative flexibility now because we’re facing budget cuts now,” Giroux said. “The time for flexibility is now, the need is real in the form of $250 million in cuts.”
He also said officials agree UW-Madison should be granted some specific authorities because of the campus’s unique mission and concentration of expertise. He cited flexibility in new construction projects as one such area outlined in the Wisconsin Idea Partnership.
In a recent Board of Regents meeting, Regents also approved a resolution to endorse a piece of legislation to reconfigure the board to ensure membership is geographically representative.
In an email to The Badger Herald, Chancellor Biddy Martin said the New Badger Partnership was carefully developed after spending over a year studying the campus’ needs with potential fiscal problems on the state level in mind.
She said because UW-Madison has been asked to absorb a $125 million cut during the coming budget cycle, the necessity for flexibility for the campus remains a pressing matter.
“The need for flexibility and greater autonomy is urgent. It cannot wait,” Martin said. “The time for change is now.”