After winning two bruising electoral battles in the last 3 years, and making structural changes to Wisconsin’s budget with Act 10, you might be forgiven for thinking that Scott Walker would likely rest on his laurels as he prepares for an anticipated 2016 campaign. You would be wrong. Walker has released his proposed Wisconsin budget for this year and it is loaded with cuts to liberal sacred cows across the board. Walker’s proposed cuts have once again mobilized the unions against him for planned protests over the weekend. Walker is yet again showing that where others might prefer the easy road, he almost relishes the opportunity to test his battle mettle.
First of all, Walker has proposed $300 million in cuts to the University of Wisconsin system. Predictably, this has sparked a planned round of protests from university professors – as a class, the most liberal and among the most unproductive members of society – who are provoking their students to join. As if you needed any confirmation of the character or the participants in this process, the organizers are a veritable who’s who of Democrat politics:
A Facebook page publicizing Saturday’s protest is hosted by UW Faculty Organizing for Change. A note describes it as a “site for UW faculty, instructional staff, and supporters to communicate about organizing in response to Gov. Walker’s proposed changes to collective bargaining rights, pensions, health insurance, and other issues affecting the UW System, workers, and students in Wisconsin.”
The rally is sponsored by United Faculty and Academic Staff, an independent affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, Local #223, AFL-CIO and Wisconsin University Union (WUU), an independent association of faculty and academic staff at UW-Madison.
Not content with provoking liberal university professors, Walker’s budget also goes after the Secretary of State’s office, headed by Doug La Folette. La Folette, you may recall, is one of the Democrat gadflies who ran against Walker in the 2012 recall election. Most famously, however, La Folette refused to publish Act 10 for ten days after it was passed in perhaps the pettiest anti-Walker rebellion to date. The other three candidates for Secretary of State in the most recent election ran on eliminating the office altogether, whereas La Folette promised to fight for it; it looks like Walker is ready to join him in that fight. Walker’s budget proposes to cut the Secretary of State’s office in half.
Would you like to hear more? Sure you would. Walker is also proposing $2.5 million in cuts to Wisconsin’s state equivalent of PBS/NPR – state funded public broadcasting entities. As you might expect, the usual suspects are protesting, a la the 2012 Presidential campaign, that Walker is trying to kill the Wisconsin equivalent of Big Bird. Not living in Wisconsin, I cannot speak to the quality of programming vel non of Wisconsin Public Broadcasting, but I feel assured that if it were worth broadcasting, they could sell sufficient advertising to keep afloat.
Walker is also tackling another sacred cow in this year’s budget: tenure reform at the UW system:
Jo Ellen Fair recalls being shaken when she read through Gov. Scott Walker’s 1,800-page budget bill this week and saw that the state law creating shared governance and tenure at the University of Wisconsin would be wiped out if Walker’s plan is approved by the Legislature.
“It was painful to read ‘Repealed,’ ‘Repealed,’ ‘Repealed,’” said Fair, a UW-Madison professor of journalism and mass communications. It’s not that Fair, chair of the campus Faculty Senate, didn’t realize Walker intended to remove many UW functions from state law as part of his plan to restructure the UW to a public authority governed by the Board of Regents. “But symbolically, I was crushed to see the language,” she said. “Same with the marking out of the Wisconsin Idea.”
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Compas figures that as Walker appoints an ever larger majority with the expiration of Regent terms, Regents will reflect his values to a greater degree.
“From what we’ve seen of his plan for K-12 education to increase vouchers and charter schools, I think we’d be pretty naïve to think this is all Walker wants to do with higher education. This is just the first salvo,” Compas said.
Walker’s plan is absolutely political, says Nino Amato, a former Regent.
“It’s not only the $300 million cut, but the game he played with the mission and the elimination of tenure and shared governance — this would devastate the credibility of UW-Madison and the UW System,” Amato said. “And this university has been our state’s engine.”
Walker, widely believed to be preparing to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, is breaking big from the usual politics around the UW, Amato said.
“This runs so contrary to the Wisconsin traditions of bipartisan support; it is nothing more than this governor’s out-of-state handlers who want to privatize K-12 and our educational institution, the UW System,” he said.
Doubtless, softer targets exist in the budget for Walker to cut, from a public relations standpoint. But having established himself as being someone who has won election three times, Walker has political capital to pick intentional fights with the constituencies that have long been on the conservative wish list for cuts, and who have also been thorns in his side, politically. Walker’s throne of skulls is already pretty impressive, but it looks like he’s not done decorating it yet.