WTCS: Technical College System Board objects to using constitutional amendment for fiscal management

Richard Carpenter, 608-266-1770

A.J. (Nino) Amato, 608-441-5740

MADISON — The Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) Board expressed concern about a possible Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) in a special meeting Thursday. The Board unanimously adopted a resolution (see attached) opposing any state constitutional amendment as a method of state and local fiscal management. System Board President A.J. (Nino) Amato called the special meeting because of growing concern the Wisconsin Legislature may consider a constitutional amendment during a special spring or summer 2004 legislative session.

Board members believe, regardless of the final details of the potential amendment drafted by the State Legislature, budgetary limits should not be included in the State Constitution. “A constitutional amendment establishing permanent restrictions on taxation and spending would diminish legislative authority and reduce legislative responsiveness to the electors by creating a rigid formula that limits government flexibility in responding to changing economic and community needs,” according to WTCS Board President Amato. Dr. Richard Carpenter, WTCS System president, stated, “If the amendment handcuffs state and local decision-making, it will be difficult for the State and the Technical College System to quickly respond to changing business and student demand for training and education.”

Board members also expressed concern about the lack of public input during the current development of the amendment or independent analysis of possible short- and long-term impacts of a possible amendment. Board member Brent Smith commented, “The prospect of legislative action on a constitutional amendment prior to thorough public dialogue is contrary to Wisconsin’s strong history of open government.” Dr. Carpenter added, “I’m fairly certain local taxpayers would want a say before the Legislature votes on a constitutional amendment that could drastically affect how their local technical colleges respond to plant closings or massive layoffs in their communities.”

As part of the resolution, the Board agreed to further possible action if the Legislature introduces a constitutional amendment or eventually provides opportunities for public review and comment. The Board also committed to working with its educational partners to formulate an appropriate response to any introduced proposal based on an analysis of the proposal’s potential ramifications.

The WTCS has 16 technical college districts throughout Wisconsin, which offer more than 300 programs awarding two-year associate degrees, one- and two-year technical diplomas and short-term technical diplomas. In addition, the WTCS offers a variety of distance learning opportunities, including eTech College of Wisconsin, and is the major provider of customized training and technical assistance to Wisconsin’s business and industry community. One out of every nine Wisconsin adults takes classes from the state’s 16 technical colleges annually. The WTCS web site is located at