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Assembly leader still at odds with university funding

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(The Center Square) – The top Republican in the Wisconsin Assembly says they may cut even more from the University of Wisconsin System’s budget.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Thursday told reporters that Republicans are “rock solid” on the idea of budget cuts for the UW System.

“I certainly think the cut could be deeper,” Vos said. “I’m certainly open to that. So we’ll have to see where the Senate is. Maybe they want to do more than we do.”

Vos originally wanted to cut $32 million from the university’s operating budget because the university wants to spend it on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Vos did not say how much more lawmakers are looking to take from the university. Previously, he’s said he doesn’t want to spend anything on “indoctrinating” students.

The university hasn’t said anything about the potential budget cuts, but Madison state Sen. Melissa Agard defended spending on diversity, equity, and inclusion earlier this week.

In a statement, she said, “The positive impact of DEI programs is not a partisan issue. The RNC Host Committee has focused on DEI and WMC found in a survey that Wisconsin is perceived as being intolerant. It’s time for Speaker Vos and legislative Republicans to drop the culture wars and work in the best interest of Wisconsin.”

The Legislature postponed a budget vote earlier this week.

Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, on Thursday urged Republicans to join Vos.

“I have made it known to the Senate Republican members of the Joint Finance Committee that they should not only support Vos’ proposal but look for ways to expand the level of cuts to wasteful spending in the UW System,” Nass said.

The UW System’s operating budget this year is just over $6.8 billion, with about half of that coming from students through tuition and fees.

Nass said the state kicks in about $1 billion in taxpayer money.

“Currently, the only authority that the Legislature has over the UW System is the power of the purse string,” Nass added. “The only action of the Legislature that brings fear to the hearts of DEI socialists running our public university system is cutting their funding.”

Vos’ and Nass’ comments come after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday threatened to veto the new state budget if Republicans insist on cutting the budget because of the university system’s spending on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“To cut, at this point in time, the University of Wisconsin System when we have a $7 billion surplus is irrational,” Evers said. “I’m hopeful that will change before the budget is passed.”

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