On Wednesday, the Assembly Republican Leadership, along with Representative Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin), Senator Darling (R-River Hills), Senator Cullen (D-Janesville), and Senator Clark (D-Sauk City), who are the primary authors, unveiled legislation that would create a state-leveraged "fund of funds." These dollars would be used to invest in our state's most skilled and talented new companies.
In the Governor's budget proposal, Assembly Bill 40, he allocated $25 million for an Investment Capital program which will assist small business and entrepreneurs who are lacking the most important thing they need to flourish: capital! The legislation that was drafted with bi-partisan input will set the stage for a $25 million state investment in a fund that would require a 2-to-1 private investment match over time. This bill was modeled after similar legislation that has been passed in other states, including Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota to name a few. This bill will provide the incentive necessary to create new Wisconsin-based companies and create more jobs in our state.
The bill is also written to include safeguards to protect our taxpayers. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), in consultation with State of Wisconsin Investment Board, will hire an Investment Manager to invest our state's dollars, as well as the private dollar match, in small businesses, new businesses, and other entrepreneurs across this state. Wisconsin's top five job growth areas, agriculture, information technology, engineered products, advanced manufacturing, and medical and imaging devices, will be the focus and top priority of this legislation.
This new initiative, which will support our best and our brightest entrepreneurial minds, will help everyone in Wisconsin. With support from both sides of the political aisle, we can move this initiative forward and help our economy grow and prosper and create more jobs for Wisconsin families. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this legislation and I will do my part to get this legislation passed quickly and signed by our Governor.
University of Wisconsin System Surplus
As you have probably heard on the news or read in the newspaper recently, severally of my Assembly colleagues, who happen to be Certified Public Accountants, discovered that the University of Wisconsin System has a surplus of $1.05 billion. After grants, gifts, and federal aid are removed from that balance, $648 million cash balance still remained.
The University of Wisconsin System was planning a 2.2 percent tuition increase and has requested a roughly $30 million increase in General Purpose Revenue (GPR). The Governor's budget proposal went above and beyond this and was going to provide the University of Wisconsin System with a $180 million increase over the amount provided in the last biennial budget.
These figures are very concerning to me, my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and to the Governor. Over the past 10 years, the University of Wisconsin System has raised tuition 134.7 percent, which is higher than any other Big Ten School. Also, from 2009-12, University of Wisconsin System raised tuition 5.5 percent each year.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have seen questionable fiscal management by the University of Wisconsin System. A few years ago, they abandoned the development of a new payroll and benefits system after spending $28.4 million. It was also recently discovered that the University of Wisconsin System overpaid on health insurance premiums and pension contributions by $33 million. These unfortunate events along with this current revelation are proof that the Legislature must act.
Leaders in our Legislature and the Governor are now calling for a freeze on tuition for at least the next two years. There are also discussions about how much GPR funding should be provided to the University of Wisconsin System in this new biennial budget. At this time, no decisions have officially been made, but I will continue to monitor this situation closely as these events are very concerning, especially for our University of Wisconsin System students across our state. We owe it to the students to use their money wisely and to avoid a situation like this in the future.
Joint Finance Committee Update
On Thursday, the Joint Finance Committee began taking votes on the state's proposed biennial budget. The agency areas discussed during this meeting were Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board, Military Affairs, Environmental Improvement Fund, Natural Resources, Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, Fox River Navigational System Authority, Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board, and Tourism.
Before casting their vote, members of the Joint Finance Committee take into consideration the Governor's proposal, the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis, motions prepared by Legislators, and most importantly, public input from the four public hearings held around the state. Decisions were made on these issue areas and the Joint Finance Committee will continue to hold these Executive Sessions until they have gone through the entire budget and voted on the budget proposals from various agencies. During this first Executive Session, the Committee reduced the state's bonding by $50 million and eliminated 33 vacant positions within the Department of Natural Resources.
The meeting was very successful and cooperative meeting. If you would like to share your thoughts with the members of the Joint Finance Committee on upcoming issues, you may email them at BudgetComments@legis.wisconsin.gov. Also, if you would like to watch this hearing or watch any hearings in the future, please visit Wisconsin Eye at http://www.wiseye.org/.