Lawmakers approve raises for all but UW employees

By: - October 17, 2023 1:37 pm

Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), whose district includes UW-Platteville, said he was disappointed the raises for University of Wisconsin employees were not scheduled for a vote. (UW-Platteville)

A Republican-controlled committee approved 6% wage increases for all state employees on Tuesday morning except for the University of Wisconsin’s over 36,000 full-time employees. 

State employees, except for those in the University System, will receive a 4% pay raise in 2024 and 2% for 2025. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), who co-chair the Joint Committee on Employment Relations (JCOER), have refused to schedule a vote on the UW System raises.

The decision is a continuation of Republicans’ targeting of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across the state. Republicans lawmakers cut the UW System budget by $32 million during the budget writing process, and would have cut 188 DEI positions if not for a line-item veto by Gov. Tony Evers. Vos has since threatened to cut the raises for UW employees until universities eliminate DEI programs. 

The lack of action on Tuesday brought criticism from Democratic lawmakers and one Republican on the committee. 

Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), who co-chairs the budget writing committee and has UW-Platteville in his district, said he was disappointed the raises for University of Wisconsin employees were not scheduled for a vote.

“The local employees on our campuses should not be penalized for policy decisions made by leaders of the university system,” Marklein said. “The custodians, executive assistants, food service providers and local faculty at UW Platteville have very little to do with the politics of the university system.” 

Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard (D-Madison) said the committee was only doing half of its job on Tuesday. She noted at the committee meeting that university employees make up around half of the state’s public employees. 

Agard said lawmakers were denying pay raises to those employees because of “one person’s resistance to initiatives to increase inclusion on our campuses.” 

“This is a sad moment for our state when the majority party of our state is actively holding our workers hostage because they cannot fathom the ability to focus on equity and diversity in the state of Wisconsin,” Agard said. 

Vos said during the committee executive session that taxpayers “do not want an ideological agenda even more on the campus than it already is.” 

Vos said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that he has met with UW leaders over half a dozen times to discuss possible ways forward.

“I have tried very hard to say, perhaps it’s not possible — because they are so dug in — to eliminate all of the DEI positions that are on campus,” Vos said. “That’s what I think should happen.”

Vos said he proposed a “middle ground,” allowing the Legislature future oversight of UW’s hiring. He said that he couldn’t imagine lawmakers ever approving a DEI position, but would approve other potential faculty positions. He said UW leaders seem to have rejected that offer, but that he plans to meet with leaders again soon.


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Baylor Spears
Baylor Spears

Baylor Spears is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner. She’s previously written for the Minnesota Reformer and Washingtonian Magazine. A Tennessee-native, she graduated with a degree in journalism from Northwestern University in June 2022.