Budget repair bill creates concerns
As a lifelong resident of Wisconsin, a long-term University of Wisconsin employee and an alumnus of two UW institutions, I worry about the future of our institution, the UW System, and the state of Wisconsin.
The University of Wisconsin System, whose 26 campuses include UW-Baraboo/Sauk County, serves more than 180,000 students. It is a system of public higher education that is the envy of other states and the world. The UW System produces graduates, research and outreach programming that plays an important part in growing Wisconsin's people, communities and future jobs.
But in order for us to continue to serve our communities, we need to be able to attract and retain high-quality faculty and staff. Even on a relatively small campus like UW-B/SC, we conduct nationwide searches to bring highly talented employees to our communities. To do that, we need to offer competitive wages and quality benefit packages.
Consequently, I am concerned about the budget repair bill proposed by Gov. Scott Walker and its possible implications for our employees. This bill contains drastic changes to the way state employee benefits are financed in Wisconsin. The bill also proposes unprecedented changes for employees represented by collective bargaining and removes the option for future UW faculty/staff unionization.
Although the majority of UW employees are not represented by collective bargaining, this bill has the potential to have long-term consequences for the UW System and by extension, for the state of Wisconsin. There are many unknowns at this point, but the bottom line is that the proposal would significantly reduce take-home pay for our employees at a time when they have endured unpaid furloughs on top of multiple budget cycles without pay raises.
UW employees have been willing to do their part to help the state during these challenging times by taking unpaid furlough days and by serving record numbers of students, but we have reached a point where our compensation will no longer be competitive. Many of our employees have stayed on because of the benefits that we can offer in order to offset their comparatively low wages.
UW System has also taken the position that it is time for state government to reduce the restrictions and rules placed upon the UW so that it can have greater autonomy in the way that it does business. The System is asking for greater flexibility to manage its own affairs and finances so that we can operate as efficiently as possible.
I am working to represent our campus and our community in this process. I encourage you to become involved and to also voice your concerns.
Tom Pleger, dean/CEO, University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County
Let's not forget
the state motto
My name is Mark Giese, and I have lived in Wisconsin the entirety of my life. I love this state, as it is my home. As an alumnus of UW-Baraboo/Sauk County and current student at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, I have grown in ways which I would not have otherwise. I am planning to be a teacher in this great state.
The thing which inspires me most with this state is our motto, "Forward." Forward, as a motto, seems to stress the importance of progressive changes to improve the quality of life and education in this state. Wisconsin has a proud tradition in this, as can be seen by Robert La Follette Sr. and the "Wisconsin Idea," which brought the state government intimately close with the University of Wisconsin.
This proposed budget "repair" bill, however, is perhaps one of the worst decisions which this great state can pass. This bill, to put it bluntly, is fundamentally flawed. It will castrate this state and leave it in a much withered and ineffectual state.
As a current student of one of this state's universities and a responsible citizen, I feel as though I must voice my opinion. During the governor's State of the State address, he stated that "Wisconsin is open for business!" Additionally, he made several appeals to our neighbors in Illinois to create job opportunities in Wisconsin. It seems, however, that the only thing which came at this request was "Chicago-style" politics, of a sleazy back-room politicking type. That can be seen by the bill's removal of bargaining agreements for state unions, except for those that supported the governor.
A fundamental requirement for a democracy is the ability to have the government and the people converse and be included in decisions which affect them. By removing the rights of those who did not support him, he is breaking a principle held true since the founding of this nation. Either this rather ludicrous notion should be applied to all unions or none at all. A progressive state such as ours should not revert back to questionable practices.
Additionally, Gov. Walker stated in his State of the State that "I hear too many stories of families struggling to put food on the table." If the governor had noticed, then he would not be as draconian with his scheme. I plan on becoming a teacher in this state. Looking at statistics compiled by the National Education Association, Wisconsin has one of the lowest starting wages for teachers (North Dakota comes in last at $24,872; Wisconsin comes a close second at $25,222). I fail to see how making these educators pay more into their pension with one of the lowest starting salaries in the nation.
This bill, if passed, will lobotomize this state's educational system. It will go from being one of the largest and best university systems in the nation to mediocre, at best. Simply put, this bill will destroy Wisconsin's value on quality education, therefore, oppose it.
Mark Giese, Rock Springs
All must sacrifice to balance budget
Wisconsin citizens hire our public employees and in large part protect them from competition in a changing world economy. "Negotiation" in the private sector has risks very different than the public sector - there is no "parity" in public sector negotiation. The assumption that "two are better than one" is an easy sell when considering law enforcement, teachers, social workers and just about any other public sector job - but the risk of losing that job is so far removed from the negotiation process that it is a non-issue. Parity can somewhat be restored by the referendum process, but even then there are examples of public employees holding the public "hostage" in the process.
"It takes a community to educate a child." What lesson are we teaching our youth by mortgaging their future? Many in the private sector have seen their standard of living reduced, even home foreclosures. Our public servants and everyone in government must see the need and participate in balancing our budget in Wisconsin and the nation. Let's start at home.
Fred Kruse, Baraboo