Due to expenses related to the pandemic, Gov. Tony Evers has ordered an additional $250 million in cuts from state agencies in the current fiscal year, following on the heels of $70 million in cuts announced in late May.
He is announcing his decision even as Congress is expected to convene and pass additional COVID-19 relief funds. But it is not clear how much, if any, of the funds would go to the state government.
“All state and local governments are now experiencing the difficult balance of providing vital services to residents in crisis while also managing tough fiscal realities,” Evers said in a statement. “While I am still hopeful that the federal government will adopt further bipartisan proposals to stabilize funding for state and local services, in the face of continued inaction and uncertainty, the unfortunate reality is that we must take these steps and make more significant cuts.”
The first round of cuts represented a 5% budgetary reduction in the budget that ended in June. The largest cut of $40,774,400 came from the UW System. The second largest cut, despite the pandemic, came from the Department of Health Services, which reduced its budget by $7,482,700.
Moments after Evers’ announcement, UW System President Tommy Thompson put out a response stating that the UW System is trying “to provide in-person classes safely this fall and reductions in state support for the UW System are an obstacle to that work.”
He went on to make the argument that the UW System is an economic engine in communities across Wisconsin as one of the state’s largest employers.
“I am working with the Governor’s office to manage these further cuts, as well as to secure the resources we need to ensure our classrooms and university communities are safe this fall,” Thompson said. “We have a compelling case, and I believe the Governor will be helpful.”
As with the first round of cuts, Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan said agencies should follow “North Star Values” in identifying cost savings.
The values DOA has identified to guide the cuts are:
- Provide Wisconsin residents relevant, quality and timely services;
- Ensure “Wisconsinites’ hard-earned tax dollars are invested in ways that benefit their communities” and with attention to all the ways state and local government are financially interconnected;
- Transparency and accountability in communicating cuts to the Wisconsin public and state employees
- “Humility, creative problem solving, service, flexibility, truth and patience” used to approach fiscal difficulties.