The legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee (JFC) met yesterday to take action on the UW System operating budget for the 2021-23 biennium. If passed by the full legislature, this biennial budget would restore the authority to set tuition for in-state, undergraduate students back to the Board of Regents, eliminating the state-mandated freeze that has been in effect for almost 8 years. Separate legislation has already been introduced to limit any future tuition increases to the rate of inflation.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state agencies were asked to lapse a portion of their state aids back to the State of Wisconsin by the current administration. While a number of agencies were required to carry forward this lapse, UW System was not one of them. For UW System, this would have been a $45 million reduction in the operating budget on an annual basis.
The budget adopted by the committee includes a total of $8.25 million in new funding for UW System over the biennium, all of it earmarked for specific projects:
- $2.5 million General Purpose Revenue (GPR) in each year of the biennium for the Freshwater Collaborative, a systemwide initiative
- $1 million GPR in each year for UW-Madison Division of Extension state agriculture specialists
- $250,000 GPR in one-time funding to support a Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies Collaboration with the Department of Defense
- $750,000 GPR for programs across UW System that serve youth in foster care
- $250,000 GPR in one-time funding for a collaboration with Water Council and the Department of Defense
The committee also provided $5 million GPR in the second year of the biennium for nurse educators in the Higher Education Aids Board (HEAB) part of the state budget.
In the coming weeks, the committee will take up the remaining portions of the 2021-23 state budget including funds for building and maintenance, as well as annual pay plans for state employees. After JFC concludes its work, the biennial budget bill will be voted on by each house of the legislature and returned to the governor’s desk for signature and/or vetoes.