GOP Lawmaker Wants Secrecy, Other Non-spending Items Out of State Budget

April 13, 2015

A nonpartisan state agency that fleshes out the cost of spending and policy proposals before the legislature says a plan to keep the public in the dark about research conducted on University of Wisconsin System campuses is among four dozen items in the proposed 2015-17 state budget that has nothing to do with state spending.

Republican Sen. Robert Cowles, of Green Bay, says the non-spending items identified in the Legislative Fiscal Bureau report on the state budget proposal should “all be stripped out and discussed with public discourse in committees through separate legislation. The state budget is no place for policy items.”

The secrecy proposal, which was unsuccessfully sought by the UW System in 2013 and 2014, would create a broad exemption from the state’s Open Records Law for any commercial, technical or scientific research by UW faculty or staff that the system chooses not to publicize or patent, such as the treatment of animals used in research.

Other non-spending policy items in Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget that were cited in the bureau’s report include:

  • Converting the Natural Resources Board and the Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection from policy-making boards to advisory councils;
  • Changing admission, accountability and oversight of the state charter school and school voucher programs;
  • Freezing Wisconsin Technical College System tuition for courses in high-demand job fields;
  • Reducing the state Building Commission’s approval and oversight authority over the construction, funding, leasing, renting, and selling of state buildings and lands.

The legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee planned to begin voting this week on Walker’s proposed 2015-17 state budget bill, Senate Bill 21. After the finance committee is finished, the proposed budget will be considered by the full legislature, and then sent on to the governor for final approval, probably early this summer.