Legislators listen at library

Wisconsin state legislators Sen. Howard Marklein and Rep. Travis Tranel visited Platteville Monday for a listening session at the Platteville Public Library after breakfast with University of Wisconsin-Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields.
Marklein, the self-confessed “newly minted state senator,” opened the session by facing the elephant in the room head on, but described the state deficit in terms of spending, avoiding comment on the effect closer to home.
The Wisconsin General Fund Deficit was offered as a mountain on a horizontal timeline: representing low spending in the last fiscal year, around $1.4 billion, similar to 2002. The mountain peaks just right of center, identifying 2012 as an approximately $3 billion year in the state’s financial statement.
In regard to the proposed 13 percent UW System budget cuts, the legislators reminded the audience that the changes themselves are not set in stone, only proposed.
“The cuts will be less than what they’re talking about if Senator Marklein and I have a say in it,” Tranel said.
Shields was in attendance, part of the more-than-packed and overflowing-into-the-next-room audience that far surpassed the maximum occupancy of 26. Other University representatives included UW-Platteville librarian Regina Pauly, Dean of the School of Engineering, Mathematics and Science Mesut Muslu, as well as Dean of the School of Business, Life Science, Media Studies, Science and Agriculture Wayne Weber.
“The proposed 3 million dollar cut could devastate us,” Weber said. “It could cause us to close programs.”
Emphasizing this point in his role as a leader of the college, Weber spoke to the service that the University offers.
“Companies love our grads,” Weber said. “Degrees allow students to earn more, increase the dollar flow in the state.”
The legislators, however, stepped back from the issue and acknowledged their lack of knowledge.
“The governor has not introduced his budget yet,” Tranel said. “Myself and Senator Marklein haven’t seen it.”
Weber continued to stress his point.
“I urge you to hear us,” Weber said. “This [next budget cut] could hurt us significantly.”
Pauly spoke to another facet of the budget cuts, and reminded those present that the salaries at the University are among the lowest five percent in the nation.
“Because of [past] budget cuts, the library has lost half the staff,” Pauly said.
Attendees spoke to the position of state spending on public education in general, for which the legislators offered an optimistic view.
“We do a very good job with public education in Southwest Wisconsin,” Tranel said.
Still, he ended the session on a more somber note.
“We’re all in this together and no one is getting out alive,” Tranel said.
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