Walker tells regents he’s ‘committed’ to bolstering UW’s flexibility

Gov. Scott Walker encouraged efforts to increase University of Wisconsin System transparency Thursday, saying those initiatives would help the UW mend fences with the Legislature before the next budget cycle.

“When people see where resources are going … that makes a huge difference,” Walker told the UW Board of Regents during their meeting on the UW-Madison campus.

Walker acknowledged that “circumstances at the time” — referring to nearly $1 billion in UW fiscal reserves disclosed by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau — led to the removal of a series of items targeting UW’s financial flexibility from his budget proposal.

But the governor said he believes most lawmakers supported those proposals and would like UW campuses to have more autonomy.

“I’m committed to going down that path again,” Walker said.

Walker said his administration would also continue to make commitments like those that survived this year’s budget process, specifically mentioning the UW Flex Option degree program and economic development incentive grants.

“This is not just about being innovative, which it is,” Walker said of the Flex Option, which allows individuals to receive college credit through competency-based testing. “This is about being relevant.”

Walker said the incentive grants also exemplify the UW’s role in serving as a catalyst for the state’s regional economies. He said state government and higher ed leaders must continue “to show that strong link” to help the state create jobs and fill ongoing vacancies.

“The more successful options we offer to employers and ultimately students, the better off we’re going to be,” Walker said.