Wisconsin Republicans mum on potential UW budget cuts

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s Republican leaders weren’t saying today whether they would cut tens of millions of dollars from the University of Wisconsin budget after delaying a vote on the subject, a move that came after the Assembly’s top GOP leader said the plan was to cut funding for diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told The Associated Press on Tuesday that UW’s budget would be cut by $32 million, the amount he said was to be spent on diversity initiatives. But after nearly seven hours of closed-door discussions, Republicans who control the Legislature’s budget committee could not come to an agreement late Tuesday night and postponed consideration of UW’s budget.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu declined to comment when asked about the status of UW’s budget today.

“I’m not going to negotiate the budget through the press,” he told reporters. He walked away without comment when asked if he thought that’s what Vos had been doing.

Sen. Howard Marklein, the Republican co-chair of the committee, did not comment when asked about UW’s budget this morning. Rep. Mark Born, the other co-chair, declined to take questions at Tuesday’s meeting.

Vos’s comments on Tuesday generated a wave of angry reactions from Gov. Tony Evers and other Democrats. If Republicans pass the budget cuts Vos proposed, the UW System could come up nearly half a billion dollars short of what school officials say they need over the next two years.

Vos has called campus diversity offices a waste of taxpayer money and said they further racial divides.

Tensions between Republicans who control the Legislature and the state’s university system are nothing new. But the fight this year centers on issues of free speech and UW’s work to advance diversity and racial equity.

Talk of university budget cuts comes just days after Republicans refused to fund the university’s top building project priority — a new engineering facility on the flagship Madison campus.

The fight reflects a broader cultural battle playing out across the nation over college diversity initiatives. Republican lawmakers this year have proposed more than 30 bills in 12 states to limit diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in higher education, an Associated Press analysis found in April.