Walker’s budget to cost UW-Madison about 400 jobs

The University of Wisconsin’s flagship campus in Madison would have to eliminate about 400 positions, close and merge programs and reduce academic offerings and services if Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget cut passes, Chancellor Rebecca Blank said Friday.

Blank posted a plan on her school Web page for how UW-Madison would cope with Walker’s proposed cuts, noting that even though the final amount isn’t known, the school had to consider how to deal with what could be a $96 million budget hole next year.

The plan comes a week after regents approved a tuition raise for out-of-state undergraduates and some graduate students, two days after a university-commissioned report said UW-Madison contributed $15 billion to the state’s economy, and a day after a poll found deep opposition to Walker’s budget cuts.

But Walker, a college drop-out, has waged a continual war against education — and especially science — since taking office, according to his critics. On the tea party right, which forms the core of Walker’s political base, well-educated people are derided as “intellectual elites” and regarded with suspicion.

Walker wants to cut state funding to the UW System by $300 million over the next two years, a reduction of about 13 percent in state support but only about 2.5 percent of the university system’s total budget. At the same time, Walker is calling for a two-year tuition freeze and a decoupling of the UW System from state oversight and laws.

Both the cut and the plan to give the university more autonomy are drawing deep opposition in the Republican-controlled Legislature. Lawmakers have said they hope to reduce the size of the cut after new tax collection forecasts come out in May, and the autonomy plan appears to be all but dead.

Walker has said he would be willing to go along with the Legislature if it can find a way to reduce the $300 million cut. A Marquette University Law School poll released Thursday found that 70 percent of respondents were opposed to Walker’s proposed reduction.

Blank said Friday that even though the final amount of the cut is not known, UW-Madison had to move ahead with a plan for how to deal with what could be a $96 million budget hole next year.

Campus-wide, Blank said about 400 positions would be eliminated. The majority of those positions are currently vacant, but an exact number of how many people may actually be laid off isn’t yet known, said Darrell Bazzell, chief financial officer for UW-Madison.

Job eliminations will likely lead to larger classes and fewer course offerings, Blank said.

Several programs across the campus will be ended or restructured, Blank said, including those in agriculture, the arts and information technology. There will also be fewer support services, such as information technology, for students, faculty and staff, Blank said. Less will be spent on maintaining buildings and facilities, she said.

Blank said the athletics department and other parts of UW-Madison are being asked to make greater financial contributions to the campus as whole. UW-Madison has about 43,000 students and about 21,800 faculty and staff members.