Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin has a history of protecting taxpayers and students. Children across Wisconsin may access affordable, quality educational programs secured through Governor Walker’s financial and legislative initiatives. If Walker’s current budget cuts for the University of Wisconsin pass, another misuse of Wisconsin tax dollars will be corrected.
Currently, The University of Wisconsin is complaining about the proposed $150 million yearly cut to their budget. If Governor Walker’s budget passes, the University will have to begin spending a small portion of the one billion plus taxpayer dollars stored in their slush fund. According to the Legislative Audit Bureau, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, and a study by the MacIver Institute, the dollars in this slush fund are not designated or required to be spent on specific programs.
Walker seems sensitive to public outrage over misuses of hard-earned tax dollars. Many taxpayers believe that storing an excessive amount of tax dollars in a slush fund is not an appropriate use of their hard-earned dollars. If citizens had the dollars taxed away from them, they could help pay school tuition and their children would not have to graduate with such huge college loans.
The U of W slush fund, also known as the Program Revenue, has seen a steady increase over the last ten years while students have seen a rapid increase in their student loan balances. The slush fund balance has quadrupled since 2004-2005 increasing from $268.2 million to $1.19 billion.
The accumulation of tax dollars in the slush fund has permitted the fund balance to grow faster than the University of Wisconsin’s budget. In 2004-2005 the slush fund or Program Revenue balance was 6.9% of the overall budget, but the current surplus is 19.8 percent of the systems budget. Cutting $150 million a year from the U W budget will require the U W to spend those taxpayer dollars as they were intended: to provide reduced tuition and to offer more courses to students.
Reports provided by The Legislative Audit Bureau and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau identified several areas where the UW may be spending more money than it should. Many examples are provided including salaries for UW faculty. According to the reports and the MacIver Institute study, the UW pays 13% more to their faculty than do other public institutions. An average UW faculty salary is $104,100 but the average salary at other public institutions is $91,900. The Governor’s budget would not prevent the UW from paying higher salaries than normal, but tax dollars would no longer be used so easily, thus creating greater accountability.
Governor Walker has often used legislative initiatives to expose the exploitation that exists when federal and state dollars are used to fund education. Under ACT 10, Walker saved the K-12 system from bankruptcy. Implementation of the program was voluntary. Those districts which implemented ACT 10 were freed from paying excessive health-care premium costs to Wisconsin Education Association Trust. Legislative policies obligated schools to purchase health insurance through WEA Trust. Once Act 10 was initiated, school districts were able to access the free market system, spend less, and obtain comparable insurance while saving tax payers millions of dollars.
The tax dollars saved because of ACT 10 provided Governor Walker the opportunity to lower property taxes. Lowering those taxes put spendable dollars in the hands of citizens who spent those dollars helping ease the economic stress facing the state at that time.
If Governor Walker receives sufficient support from the conservative controlled legislative bodies to get his budget passed, the taxpayer will be empowered by retaining more of their tax dollars, the Wisconsin economy will benefit as citizens spend those dollars, and another branch of the educational system will be more fiscally responsible to the electorate while students across the state will continue to receive a quality educational experience.