MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday ordered $250 million in cuts to state agencies this year — the latest financial hit caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement of more cuts was widely anticipated given the precipitous drop in the state’s tax collections. It came after Evers ordered agencies to cut $70 million in the budget year that ended June 30. Evers did not say which agencies’ budgets would be cut by how much, leaving it to each to work out with his administration.
The University of Wisconsin System shouldered the majority of the previous round of cuts — about $41 million out of $70 million — and was bracing for more.
“The UW System has already borne a disproportionate share of state cuts to date,” said interim UW President Tommy Thompson, a former governor. “I am working with the governor’s office to manage these further cuts, as well as to secure the resources we need to ensure our classrooms and university communities are safe this fall. We have a compelling case, and I believe the governor will be helpful.”
UW-Madison Chancellor Becky Blank said any cuts from the state would be in addition to at least $150 million loss the flagship campus was anticipating already.
“As decisions are made about how the $250 million in cost savings are allocated across state agencies, I hope state leaders take into account the importance of trying to maintain the state’s investment in higher education and the share of the earlier cost savings absorbed by UW System,” Blank said.
Evers, a former member of the UW Board of Regents, did not address the university in his statement. The cuts were announced as COVID-19 cases continue a spike that began in mid-June. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate, which hit a high of 13.6% in April, was 8.5% in June. State tax collections dropped by $870 million in April and Evers has projected a $2 billion loss over the next year. That could be offset with federal aid and state savings.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on our nation, state, communities, businesses, and families,” Evers said in a statement. “All state and local governments are now experiencing the difficult balance of providing vital services to residents in crisis while also managing tough fiscal realities.”
Evers said the he remained hopeful that the federal government will provide additional aid to the state but “in the face of continued inaction and uncertainty, the unfortunate reality is that we must take these steps and make more significant cuts.”
Republican legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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