TAA's Political Education Committee on the Budget

You might have heard that this week, the Governor introduced his budget for the 2009-2011 biennium. As we all know, the crisis that confronts our nation’s economy also confronts our state’s budget. In this difficult time for policy-makers – and more difficult for us citizens on the receiving end of many of those policies – we saw some good news and some bad news coming out of the budget proposal.

First off, with the federal stimulus package coming in to Wisconsin, our state will have its own stimulus package even before dealing with the budget. That means more dollars in the economy and more for working people like us. That’s good news.

Second, the proposed state budget puts forward a zero-increase for the UW system. While this might sound like bad news, it’s actually relatively good. Most state agencies are taking cuts. We heard all along that a zero-increase was the best that the UW system could hope for. So we made it out without taking any cuts. For now.

Third, the governor’s proposed budget is by far the most LGBT-friendly ever in Wisconsin. Domestic partnership rights for state employees, including us at the UW, are included. We fought for this, and we’re seeing it happen. More good news.

The bad news is that there’s little money to pump into the UW system that is needed more than ever. What happens for us at the bargaining table in the future will be directly related to what happens in this budget process. The number of jobs and amount of funding for graduate students is on the block. Same with our healthcare. Tuition, seg fees, and workloads follow closely behind. The bad news is that it looks like the UW system could be in for a rough go, and the budget of the university is always balanced on the backs of the education workers like us.

But the best news of all is that we can impact what happens in this budget process. We helped build a progressive majority in the statehouse and we have allies in the Capitol that will work with us to create the best outcomes for folks like us and for our UW system. But they need to hear from us.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be putting together a group of people that will help us lobby our state elected officials to do the right things in this budget. Will you join us on this advocacy team? Don’t worry if you’ve never had experience. We’ll train you up. But we need folks that care about what happens to graduate student workers and our university. If you fit that bill, let us know by sending an email to our Political Education Committee chair Peter Rickman at rickman@wisc.edu. We’ll work to organize TAA members to be a force in the Capitol and make sure we hear more good news than bad this budget cycle.