Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Assembly, Senate exchange budget plans

State Assembly Republicans made another offer to the state’s deficit problem this week and Democrats shot back with their own plan to try and end the standstill.

UW-Madison officials remained critical of the GOP proposal, which would return cuts to the UW System in place of softened cuts to cities. Senate Democrats trimmed $5 million more dollars from the university system than their previous offer, but their proposed $37 million cuts save UW $14 million compared with the Republicans’.

“The proposal is coming in the right direction, but it’s not cooked yet,” UW System spokesman Erik Christianson said. “The Democratic proposal [cuts] are much less than the Republican proposal but there’s still much work to be done.”

On May 31, the Wisconsin State Journal indicated Republicans feel their plan is something of a final word.

“This is the end game,” Rep. John Gard, R-Peshtigo, told the paper. But the Democrat answer did not concede the same points, returning with a plan far from the Republicans’ “streamlined” offer.

Democrats refused to compromise the state’s $1.02 billion shared-revenue program, even after Republicans moved from massive cuts ($750 million in 2003 and $515 million in 2004) to an $894.8 million plan for each of the next two years. But party leaders claim they are eager to finish negotiations.

“We’re hoping within the next two weeks to be finished,” said Mike Browne, press secretary for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, D-Madison.

Christianson said the university system was looking for a plan “somewhere in between the governor’s proposal and the Democrats’.” The latest assembly proposal brings the system cuts to the same level as Gov. McCallum’s targeted $51 million.

Browne said the assembly had come up with a “McCallum-like plan.”

The assembly plan might lessen how much students have to pay, eliminating a provision to charge out-of-state students a 10 percent surcharge and increasing state higher education grants in the financial aid program. Democrats want to include a provision to tie financial aid to tuition, so students with aid will not bear a heavier cost even after tuition increases.

Republicans also deleted a provision to cut UW’s travel budget and maintains the existing study abroad scholarship and funding.

The proposal would discard cuts to travel, advertising and international education. The bottom line appears to be about $10 million less in revenues to the UW System than the governor proposed, UW System officials said.

The plan does not address the longer-term structural deficit facing the state, according to UW Communications, and would leave a $1 billion or more structural deficit to be dealt with in the 2003-05 budget.

Last month, professor Andrew Reschovsky argued in a report that the legislature’s attempts to solve the budget problems only produce more difficult problems in years to come.

The Republican plan includes using portions of the state’s $1.28 billion tobacco settlement to pay off the present deficit, which would hit home next year when structural problems will produce another deficit and there will be no money left to pay it off, Reschovsky said.

Republicans defended the proposal on grounds of timing, according to the State Journal. Many state-funded programs, including cities and schools, are already employing cutbacks because of uncertainty over the budget.

In order to prevent unnecessary layoffs and other crises, Republican leaders said, the state had no more time to waste. Democrats want a more-inclusive plan that includes campaign-finance reform and fewer cuts.

Republicans accused them of dragging their feet to make the state look bad in a gubernatorial election year, but Browne said Democrats had agreed in principle to “up to 200” items but Republicans were unwilling to settle those two-thirds of the budget.

A conference committee met this week to take up the proposals. Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature have not formally agreed on any of the 314 items dividing their respective packages.

— news services contributed to this report

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