Local reps. talk about tuition costs, state budget
Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 02:11
County Executive Mark Harris (D) and State Rep. Gordon Hintz (D) came to UW Oshkosh Monday to discuss tuition cuts and other state budget issues.
“Now is the time, before the budget really starts, before you get sworn in, to think about those things you really wanted to do and what you’re going to bring to the table,” Hintz said. “For every election I think we have to start fresh.”
American Democracy Project intern Sarah Tritch said she hoped the State of the State being on campus would bridge the gap between students and politics.
“I was hoping that students would have, number one, the opportunity to see who is representing them and also the ability to ask questions,” Tritch said. “A lot of us feel like we’re really distant from politics.”
Education fudning and tuition cuts were one of the first issues discussed by Harris and Hintz. According to the student moderators, Gov. Walker plans to implement performance based funding to higher education.
“Who doesn’t want to have some accountability and we’re turning out the right kind of people,” Hintz said. “Higher education is part of the individual’s development. The thing I’m most worried about … is we’re now going to be adding another layer of bureaucracy.”
Harris said he was concerned about who would be making the determination of how well an institution is doing.
“In the end, isn’t it the student who has to decide what area of study that they’re taking and not the state?” Harris said.
The state’s economy was also of major concern to Harris who said the starting point for the last biennial budget was a $3.6 billion deficit, which he called an unrealistic number.
“I’m fearful that when the state is now projecting surpluses, that that’s equally unrealistic,” Harris said. “We’re getting the sense that something that was broken has been fixed.”
Hintz said though the economy has stabilized, spending the state’s surplus should be done cautiously.
“Along with the national economy things have stabilized where we’re not expecting adeficit anymore,” Hintz said. “Our economy is still behind our neighboring states. This surplus seems to have some asterisks by it.”
Harris and Hintz both said they would like to see the surplus of the Wisconsin budget used to restore programs that were cut from the last budget.
“I would like to see the state put back some of the money it took from K-12 education and universities,” Harris said.
Many students, like freshman Kale Shirley, were there for class assignments, but Shirley said he found the discussions interesting and helpful.
“The state’s concern about the health care issues were cleared up,” Shirley said.
Along with the Affordable Care Act, Hintz and Harris also discussed jobs and green initiatives for the state, referencing UWO.
“[UWO is] not just being cost-sensitive, but being environmentally sensitive too,” Hintz said. “The new biodigester that this campus has spearheaded, my guess, is going to be a real benefit to the state of Wisconsin as well.”
According to Hintz, this contributes to the high quality of life in Wisconsin, which should attract businesses for job growth.
“Having a responsive government that is trying to build a good work force is one area to focus on,” Hintz said.
Audience members were also encouraged to ask further questions. The questions were concerned with similar issues, education and the economy.
Tritch said this was the second State of the State, held every biennium to inform students and the community of what government is working on and future plans for the state.
“After there’s a new round of constituents elected we just try to hold this event to let people know, literally, what the state of the state is,” Tritch said.
Missing from the panel were State Reps. David Murphy (R) and Michael Schraa (R).