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Wisconsin Republicans mum on potential UW budget cuts

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s Republican leaders weren’t saying Wednesday 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 on Wednesday.

“I’m not going to negotiate the budget through the press,” he told reporters. He walked away without responding 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 on Wednesday morning. Rep. Mark Born, the other co-chair, declined to explain why the vote was delayed during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

“First of all, I don’t accept that anything broke down,” Born said. “We’re working through the budget process and historically, as well as in this budget, sometimes things are delayed as discussions or work continues … We’ll take it up when we’re ready to take it up.”

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.

“For people on the left, (diversity and equity have) become their new religion,” Vos said at the news conference Wednesday afternoon. “They no longer go to church on Sunday, but boy are they trying to make sure everybody is evangelized on campus, that’s there’s only one acceptable viewpoint. That’s not what I think taxpayers should be funding.”

There was no immediate response to an email sent Wednesday morning seeking comment from the Associated Students of Madison, the student government body at UW-Madison.

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.


Associated Press writers Harm Venhuizen and Todd Richmond contributed to this report.

Scott Bauer, The Associated Press

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