Gov. Walker unveils UW cuts, Bucks arena funding plan

Gov. Scott Walker today released details of his plans to cut $300 million from the UW System while providing it more autonomy and to borrow $220 million to help fund a new Bucks arena in Milwaukee.

Walker, who is set to release his state budget one week from today, said his plans will provide the UW System more flexibility going forward. He also stressed his plan for the Bucks would not use current tax revenues to pay back the $220 million in bonds that would help pay for the new arena. Instead, growth in taxes on the salaries of Bucks players and personnel in future years would go toward the bonds.

“I think it’s arguably the most fiscally conservative idea in the country for a professional sports team,” Walker told the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce directors meeting as he unveiled his plan. “It’s a free-market approach. We say we’re going to help the Bucks stay here and pay their own their way.”

Walker also said the bonds would be only be released after all other funding for the arena has been secured. He estimated that at $300 million. He also said if the Bucks are sold, the revenue from that sale would first go to pay back the bonds.

As part of the UW plan, Walker would turn the system into a public authority. Walker will call in his budget for another two-year freeze on tuition for undergraduates who hail from Wisconsin. After that, the system will have the authority to increase tuition on its own.

UW President Ray Cross said the cuts are “substantial.” Still, he said the public authority status, similar to the relationship UW Hospital has with the state, would give the system the ability to manage on its own things like procurement and some building projects.

“These flexibilities will allow us to manage pricing in a way that reflects the market and actual costs,” Cross said. “The flexibilities also ensure our continued commitment to affordability, accessibility and quality educational experiences for our students and Wisconsin families.”