Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Doyle to push partner benefits

Gov. Jim Doyle announced he will propose offering health insurance benefits to domestic partners of all state employees in his budget Tuesday, including University of Wisconsin System staff.

The resolution is an expansion of a 2005-07 budget proposal by Doyle to offer benefits to domestic partners of UW System staff. It was struck down in 2006 by the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee because of a lack of funding.

Some university officials have requested the benefits for nearly a decade — including the UW-Madison Faculty Senate in 1997 — and the UW Board of Regents recommended the benefits in its budget to Doyle last year.


According to the Dec. 4, 2006 request by the regents, nearly 300 other colleges and universities nationwide and 13 state governments — including Iowa and Illinois — provide domestic partner benefits.

UW System Spokesperson David Giroux said the system requested domestic partner benefits to better recruit and retain staff. UW-Madison is the only Big Ten school that does not offer domestic partner benefits, he said.

"It's purely an issue of competition for us," Giroux said. "This has been an important issue for us for a number of years."

But according to Giroux, the lack of benefits has hurt universities across Wisconsin. University employees in Madison are not the only ones affected, he added.

"There's a misperception that this is a Madison issue," Giroux said. "Many of our researchers and academic leaders are already behind their peer groups."

State. Rep. Mark Gundrum, R-New Berlin — who authored the constitutional marriage amendment that passed by statewide referendum Nov. 7 said the governor's proposal is "just part of a gay rights agenda."

"It would be a tremendous cost to the taxpayers," Gundrum said. "It's a phenomenal financial burden."

While Gundrum said funding domestic partner benefits will cost the state millions of dollars, other officials estimate lesser costs.

UW sociology professor Joseph Elder said costs would be minimal because the nation's best data estimates only 1 to 2 percent of the country is gay or lesbian.

Assuming a proportionate amount of UW-Madison staff are gay or lesbian, "You're only adding a few more [to current state-provided benefits]," Elder said. "It would help the university be more competitive."

Elder led a faculty research team in 2004 that concluded UW-Madison could improve campus climate and retention of gay and lesbian staff by encouraging the state Legislature to allow domestic-partner benefits.

Giroux said the UW System does not know how many staff would benefit from Doyle's proposal and therefore could not estimate a projected cost. In any case, he said domestic-partner benefits would give some staff one less reason to leave Wisconsin for another institution.

State Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, said he supports Doyle's proposal and called it "a matter of fairness."

"State employees like myself … and same-sex couples deserve the same benefits," Black said. "To my mind, it does make sense."

State Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, who chairs the Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee, said Doyle's proposal should be removed from the budget and discussed through separate legislation because it's a huge policy decision.

"I myself will be pretty adamant that it will be pulled out of the budget," Nass said. "It will get attention [in the budget], but not enough as if it were a stand alone bill."

Nass said he would oppose providing health insurance benefits to domestic partners of all state employees.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report

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