A Grim Prediction

March 12, 2011 | Blog

Mulling over the events of the last several weeks during a trip to New York, where I met with several sociologists who specialize in social movements and politics, I have reached a rather grim conclusion:

After passing the New Badger Partnership — or the Wisconsin Idea Partnership–the Legislature will advance the bill to Governor Walker, who will then exercise one of the strongest powers any governor in this nation holds: the line-item veto.

Writes The Nation: “It’s not just a line-item veto; Walker has the power to veto individual phrases and words — like “not” — from sentences. If the state Senate returns to session and passes a bill with time limits on Walker’s favored provisions, he can strip out the new language and sign his own decompromised version into law. If that sounds crazy, keep in mind that until 2008 governors of Wisconsin could — and did! — veto multi-page sections of bills, leaving in place only eight or nine words spelling out a law the governor wanted to enact. And that, in turn, was a much-narrowed version of the so-called “Vanna White veto” power enjoyed by Wisconsin governors prior to 1990, when they could veto individual letters out of words and individual digits out of numbers.”

My prediction: Walker will use the line-item veto to strike down Chapter 37–shared governance.

This will leave UW-Madison (or the entire UW System) under a board to which he appoints the majority, and controls compensation, procurement, and tuition. And the right of faculty, staff, and students to participate in the university decision-making will be demolished. He will tell us that this saves our administrators time and money– they will still “listen” to us, but will be under no obligation to act.

Putting shared governance before this governor is a surefire way to end it. This is why the NBP should have been discussed with the full campus community before our leader told the Governor this is what was best for Madison.

Of course our Chancellor disagrees. On the FAQ posted today, she responds to this concern as follows:

Q: I am concerned about the ability of the governor to make drastic changes to the budget after it has passed through the legislature. How do you address concerns about the governor’s ability to line-item veto parts of the budget, including all UW-Madison funding specifically, as well as policy, particularly when you will have little support from direct legislators?

A: A comparison between the governor’s proposed budget bill as introduced March 1, 2011, and the Feb. 18 draft revealed no significant changes. We acknowledge that Wisconsin’s governor has extensive line-item veto authority. He has supported UW-Madison’s need for flexibilities by proposing a public authority model, and we will continue to work on addressing any issues raised during the legislative process.

I see no reason to feel assured by this response. “Writing a “veto-proof” appropriations bill in Wisconsin is essentially impossible”. I hope I am wrong. But I’m betting I am right.

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