Evers orders $250 million in cuts; Thompson responds cuts are hurting UW System mission

    budget cut money Photo by Images Money | Flickr/CC BY 2.0
    Photo by Images Money | Flickr/ CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

    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.

    Gov. Tony Evers from his media briefing 5/14/20
    Gov. Tony Evers from his media briefing 5/14/20

    “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.”

    Tommy Thompson
    UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson. (UW System)

    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.
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    Melanie Conklin
    Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.