UWSP Chancellor reacts to Governor’s budget repair plan - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

UWSP Chancellor reacts to Governor’s budget repair plan


UW-Stevens Point Chancellor Bernie Patterson reacts to Governor Walker's budget repair plan

STEVENS POINT (PRESS RELEASE)--Wisconsin is open for business?

I want to get on board with the mantra. But the proposed Budget Repair Plan is about to toss to the wind one of this state's vital calling cards in economic development.

In the four decades since the University of Wisconsin System was established, its strong and united member universities have, collectively and individually, risen to international prominence because of their teaching excellence, groundbreaking research in the lab and in the field, and their commitment to maintaining some of the most affordable tuition rates in America.

Ask any business that has relocated to our state since 1971 whether the quality of higher education was a factor in seeing a future here for their company and their employees' families. Why would our friends in Illinois take seriously Governor Walker's invitation to move north if Wisconsin's renowned higher education system has been relegated to second class on a slow train to recovery?

Before the Legislature enacts the governor's proposal, let's have a serious, yet equally high-speed discussion about flexibility and autonomy that would lift our entire public university system, not just one institution, from the mire of costly state bureaucratic oversight. Let the savings of our local decisions in areas like state contracting, hiring practices, and faculty opportunity to develop research-related outside funding sources give us a chance to offset the coming impact of balancing the state budget on the backs of our faculty and staff.

Our university, in the heart of the state and at the heart of a wonderful community, receives around 20 percent of its budget from direct state support. Don't treat us as if we were a fully funded state agency like Corrections or Transportation. Free us from the bonds of bureaucracy and let us work with you, Governor Walker, to ease the crisis and keep the talent that Wisconsin needs to move ever forward. Let us maneuver our universities like we, too, are open for business.

Our faculty and staff—the nation's finest—are drawn to careers here because they love what they do, they love our students, and they are proud to be a part of the University of Wisconsin. They're not in it for the money. Salaries on our campuses are generally 15-20 percent below those at comparable schools elsewhere. Many of our academic and classified staff members earn significantly less than their private-sector counterparts. I know of full-time employees at my university, including professors, who receive food stamps and heating assistance to care for their families.

For years we have been able to soften the blow of lower pay by offering a strong benefits package. The governor's plan, however, would cripple that hiring advantage and send many of our talented employees packing to neighboring states like Minnesota and beyond.

Take a look at these real-life scenarios that will face our employees, potentially in a matter of days:

Impact of Proposed Budget Repair Bill Provisions

Bob: Custodian, full time, classified
Salary: $11.834/hour, paid bi-weekly
Benefits Taken: WRS (retirement); health, vision, dental, income continuation insurances
Other deductions: FICA, Federal/State withholding, furlough, union dues
Impact on Bob and his family? A 16.1% reduction.

Julie: Academic Staff employee, full time, paid over 12 months
Salary: $35,358 annual, $2947/month
Benefits Taken: WRS (retirement); health, state group life, dental insurances
Other deductions: FICA, Federal/State withholding, TSA ($100), furlough
The cut to Julie's take home pay? 14.2%

Kelly: Assistant Professor, full time faculty, paid over 9 months
Salary: $49,230 annual, $5,470/month
Benefits Taken: WRS (retirement); health, state group life, income continuation insurances
Other deductions: FICA, Federal/State withholding, furlough, foundation donation
Kelly takes a 10.2% cut to her paycheck.

Clearly, our colleagues and friends who are the lowest compensated among us will be hit the hardest.

Without an acknowledgement that public higher education is part of Wisconsin's SOLUTION and without giving us the flexibility to manage our own finances, I expect that our university workforce will begin to dissolve this spring, along with our ability to fully deliver on the statewide commitment to economic development and recovery. Even more importantly, the opportunity for our students to receive the highest quality university education begins to fade.

Chancellor Bernie L. Patterson

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