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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

State agencies prepare for possible budget crunch

The University of Wisconsin school system, state health services and other Wisconsin agencies may be forced to return funding in the event of a budget lapse, the Wisconsin Department of Administration determined earlier this month.

A lapse occurs when state revenues from taxes do not fulfill original revenue estimates — as the Department of Administration is currently expecting to the sum of $174 million. For the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years, agencies will be asked to return previously allocated funds to the state in order to avoid a statewide deficit.

The University of Wisconsin School Systems has to plan for the largest cut, $65.9 million over the next two years.

David Giroux, executive director of communications and external relations for the UW system, said the cuts UW schools are being asked to make are clearly disproportionate to what the other agencies’ cuts. The schools are asked to take on 38 percent of the additional cuts despite being only 7 percent of the state’s expenses, he said.

“Our reaction includes surprise, dismay, shock,” Giroux said. “I could run through the thesaurus.”

He said while the system knew additional cuts were coming, he never expected the number would be so high.

“Most people don’t understand why students would be asked to take this on at a time when higher education is so critical to economic success,” Giroux said.

The next largest cuts will fall on state health services, which will be asked to cut $26.6 million through 2013.

Mike Huebsch, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Administration, has defended the budget plan from criticism since its announcement in a letter to the agencies Oct. 14.

“As you are aware, the national and global economies are still recovering from one of the worst recessions in 70 years,” Huebsch said in the letter. “While the Wisconsin economy continues to recover, the potential impact of these national and global trends is undeniable.”

In an interview on Wisconsin Public Television, Huebsch said the state is just planning in case of a shortfall in the expected revenues, saying a “softer economic future” may be on the horizon.

“We’re hoping for the best, planning for the worst,” he said in the interview.

Tom Luljac, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee spokesman, said he did not know how the plan would be administered at campus level yet and that the school was standing behind the system reaction offered by Giroux.

“It’s frustrating,” Giroux said. “At one point (the UW schools) were facing $250 million in cuts over the next two years … we dug our way out of that hole and got on with our lives, and we get hit with this. It’s tough to take on halfway through the academic year.”

Giroux said the cuts would negatively impact students across the state, saying the already strapped system would have trouble offering the highest quality educational experience.

Hythem Abad, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he and other students have already begun to feel the effects of budget cuts in Madison. Abad said the school is cutting his major of microbiology and immunology next semester.

Abad said students were informed the budget was being cut by 11 percent and his major being cut was the result of the inability of the school to replace retiring professors.

“(The cuts) are pretty bad for incoming students because they’re limiting what people can do when they get here,” Abad said. “College is supposed to be all about trying new things and figuring out what you like and what you want to do, but when you’re cutting majors you’re limiting that.”

Becky Lindholm, a junior at UW-Milwaukee, said the cuts made her feel like the government wasn’t putting higher education as a priority.

“They shouldn’t take money away from the schools and the students,” Lindholm said. “There is no way that schools are going to be able to cope with the budget cuts without layoffs and cutting programs that will ultimately damage the quality of our education.”

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