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June 18, 1999

UW-RF's Thibodeau Applauds Budget Action

Chancellor Gary A. Thibodeau hailed news from Madison on Tuesday (June 15) that the Republican Assembly Caucus restored key initiatives affecting the biennial budget of UW-River Falls and the University of Wisconsin System.

Following an hour-long debate, the caucus restored key pieces of Gov. Tommy Thompson's budget recommendations for UW-RF that had been killed during deliberations by the Legislature's powerful Joint Finance Committee.

Thibodeau was particularly appreciative of the leadership in the caucus debate provided by Rep. Kitty Rhoades, R-Hudson.

"She played a critically important role in this favorable action in the caucus. It was clear that as a legislator with a campus in her district that she was one of the most knowledgeable and well-informed members of the caucus during the debate. I want to publicly express my appreciation to her for her leadership role in this," Thibodeau said.

Thibodeau also applauded the caucus support of another freshman legislator, Rep. Mark Pettis, R-Hertel.

"Although his district does not include the University, over 100 students are enrolled here from the 28th Assembly District," Thibodeau said. "Rep. Pettis' vote certainly demonstrated his commitment to providing a quality public higher education system for his constitutents, whether they are enrolled at UW-RF or at another campus."

The budget initiatives will ensure that UW-RF can continue to maintain its flexibility in responding to requests for education via new technologies, such as distance learning or World Wide Web-based courses, Thibodeau said. Further, the caucus moved to ensure that financial aid would be increased to UW-RF's neediest students, while it also took steps to provide additional taxbreaks to students and to employers who pay for their employees' continuing education that is related to their work.

Here is a summary of the budget initiatives passed by the caucus.

Restored the Governor's recommendation of expanded management flexibility for the UW System Board of Regents. This flexibility, known as a "continuing appropriation," will enable the UW System to improve access to courses for non-traditional age students and businesses, as well as offer more distance learning programs through information technology.

This initiative will allow UW-RF to quickly respond to industry and business requests for specialized courses without having to receive approval from the Legislature before fulfilling the request.

Restored the student match for the "Madison Initiative," a three-way partnership of the state, students and private donors designed to keep UW-Madison competitive with peer institutions. Failure to restore these funds would jeopardize millions of dollars in private contributions.

Matched future state financial aid increases to future tuition increases, and cuts federal taxes on students in order to increase student financial aid grants for 1999-01.

Restored limited authority to increase the number of UW System positions, and introduced an education tax credit for certain businesses that pay the postsecondary tuition of their employees.

In response to the caucus's actions, UW System President Katharine Lyall made the following statement:

"I am very pleased that Speaker (Scott) Jensen (R-Waukesha) and the Assembly Republican Caucus have taken action to ensure both access and quality of a UW System education. The future of Wisconsin depends on our ability to maintain quality higher education for both traditional and non-traditional-age students. These actions would help us do that.

"Restoring our flexibility to serve working adults who need college courses to maintain a professional license or prepare for a new career will help keep Wisconsin on the move. The demand for a skilled workforce exceeds the supply of available talent. We must do our part to help workers continually upgrade their skills. With this flexibility, the UW System will be able to serve more students of all ages."

"I am also pleased by the support in the caucus for restoration of the full match for the private challenge grant contained in the Madison Initiative. No other state I know of has forged such a creative partnership with its public university alumni and donors. It's an innovative approach that will keep UW-Madison among the top research universities in the world. We cannot afford to lose this opportunity, one that will benefit the whole UW System."

Lyall continued, "As the budget moves on to the Senate, I hope that chamber will also improve on the actions of the Joint Finance Committee. The state is the ultimate winner if the UW System remains among the top public higher education systems in the country."

Final action on the budget is expected to occur within the next two weeks in both the Assembly and the Senate.

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