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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Feb. 13, 2002

Contact: Erik Christianson
echristianson@uwsa.edu
(608) 262-5061

Testimony by Regent Fred Mohs to the
Joint Finance Committee on
Special Session Assembly Bill 1

On behalf of the University of Wisconsin System, I'd like to thank you for this opportunity to speak. I will be brief.

We know that the public is rightly concerned about the health of the Wisconsin economy.

And we know that the public expects the University of Wisconsin to be part of any solution to the state's economic woes. A statewide poll revealed that more than 80 percent of Wisconsin residents believe the UW System plays a critical role in the state's economy and quality of life.

Further, University leaders are acutely aware of the State's financial plight and are strongly committed to economic growth for Wisconsin. We wish to be part of the solution in three meaningful ways:

1. By reducing expenditures by more than $50 million in GPR reductions, though we hope the state will reinvest in the University as the economy improves.
2. By managing those funding cuts in ways that, to the best of our ability, preserve the core educational quality of the UW for our students.
3. And by moving forward with as much of our economic stimulus package as possible to support the Wisconsin economy.

Governor McCallum's proposed $51 million cut would be a severe blow to our operation. Let me put this number in perspective. First, I want to remind you that of every GPR dollar that the university gets, 99 cents go back out to our campus communities around the state. The remaining penny is spent to make sure that our campuses operate efficiently and are held accountable. So, in a sense, further cuts to the university are cuts to our communities as well - except we would be cutting university professors and admission staff rather than municipal workers.

That $51 million exceeds the entire budget - from all sources - of UW-Parkside and is higher than the state portion of the budget for all of our campuses except for UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison. Put another way, the State of Wisconsin now invests $800 per student (in GPR) less than our peers nationally. The $51 million cut will translate to another $300 reduction per student, leaving our campuses the unenviable task of providing quality education with significantly reduced resources.

Campus by campus, our intention is to judiciously manage our way through these cuts with a variety of strategies, from further trimming library resources and increasing class sizes to decreasing course offerings and reducing and delaying support services. All the while, we will continue to look for new ways to streamline operations - in order to minimize the impact on our students.

Regarding our economic stimulus package, we have committed to educating more students in high-demand New Economy fields including computer science, biotechnology and bioinformatics. And we have pledged to generate more patents and business spin-offs based on UW research. Governor McCallum's proposal would leave us with sufficient funding to accomplish a portion of our original economic stimulus plan, deferring the remainder to the 2003-2005 budget.

But I must tell you that other budget proposals under debate, including one to freeze second year budgets, would nearly double the University's cut to $92 million, roughly the entire operating budget of UW-Stout. Such a cut would eliminate our economic stimulus efforts entirely and force us to reduce the number of students who could attend the UW.

Timing is also an issue. To effectively manage the cuts proposed in Special Session Assembly Bill 1, we need solid budget information as quickly as possible. Admissions decisions for next fall and crucial hiring offers are being made now. It appears we must base our decisions on Governor McCallum's proposed $51 million cut.

If that cut is deepened, decisions for next year will be jeopardized. We may be forced to cut staff and student enrollments in the second semester. And our economic development activity benefiting the entire state will have to be curtailed.

I urge you to make your decisions as quickly as prudence permits, to make sure that the cuts to the university do not go deeper and are restored as the budget rebound permits. Only then can the University truly be a viable partner in solving the state's economic problems.

Thank you for your attention.