At a time when technical college enrollments are soaring, Governor Walker is proposing to slash Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) state funding by 30% and freeze the property tax levy at its current level.
In an analysis of these proposals, Wisconsin Budget Project warns that Walker is jeopardizing the state's fragile economic recovery by asking Wisconsin's technical colleges to take a disproportionately large cut especially following years of declining state aid.
The WTCS was established in the early 1970s with three equal sources of funding, one-third state aid, one-thrid property taxes, and one-third other sources.
As recently as 1990 the state contributed 30% of the sixteen college system's' funding. By 2010, however, state aid had fallen to a record low of only 8% despite enrollment increases of 36% between 2001 and 2010. Walker proposes to slash another $70 million in his 2011-2013 budget.
This combination of declining state aid and increasing enrollment means that state aid per student has tanked, dropping from about $2,900 (in 2010 dollars) in 2001 to about $1,700 in 2010, a decline of more than 40 percent. As result, WTCS's students have the largest unmet financial need of all of Wisconsin's college students.
the state's shortage of skilled workers. As recently as last week, Badger Meter, Inc. CEO Rich Meeusen, an avid Walker booster, acknowledged that having "a pool of talented employees" was more important to business expansion decisions than low tax rates.
Wisconsin's technical colleges have a stellar one hundred year track record of training the state's "pool of talented employees."
At a time when firms like Marinette Marine, Oshkosh Truck, Bucyrus Erie and their Wisconsin-based supplier chains are struggling to hire hundreds of skilled workers, cutting WTCS funding and the state's supply of skilled workers is the wrong thing to do. It will undermine the Wisconsin's fragile economic recovery, the prosperity of its citizens and businesses and Governor Walker's campaign promise to create 250,000 new jobs.
When the Committee on Joint Finance convenes on Thursday to discuss Walker's WTCS budget proposals it should restore the WTCS's state funding and remove the property tax levy cap.
The Wisconsin Budget Project analysis is linked here.