MADISON, Wis. – June 16, 2011 – With the Senate’s vote today, the budget bill awaiting Governor Walker’s signature offers significant leadership flexibilities for all University of Wisconsin System institutions. The two-year budget reduces taxpayer support for UW institutions by $250 million, but it includes long-sought statutory changes in budgeting, financial management, personnel, and other areas. Together, these measures should help mitigate the impact of those cuts.

UW System leaders today praised those changes, pledging to use the new flexibilities to improve on the University’s strong reputation for academic excellence and administrative efficiency. While the bill preserves a unified statewide system, it also provides UW-Madison with specific new authority in areas like construction, personnel systems, procurement, and accountability reporting.

“In this time of rapidly evolving challenges, our UW System institutions – and our System office – are prepared to adapt and innovate, with a goal of helping the entire state thrive,” said Michael J. Spector, President of the UW System Board of Regents. “The new flexibilities approved by legislators let us change how we do business, in ways that will improve the ways we leverage every dollar to serve students. What will not change is our longstanding commitment to excellence and accountability.”

“As we have said, these operational flexibilities are the most significant set of changes we’ve seen since the UW System was created 40 years ago,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly. “We have long advocated for the opportunity to manage our operations more efficiently, and we sincerely appreciate the effort to craft reasonable changes that will enhance our ability to cope with near- and long-term challenges. Our chancellors, joined by business and community leaders, advocated strongly for these flexibilities, and legislators were responsive to their call.”

Legislators preserved UW System’s membership in WiscNet and other Internet collaborations, and allowed UW-Extension to move forward with a $32.3-million federal grant that will improve Internet access in rural Wisconsin.

“We appreciate the hard work of legislators in both houses, from both parties, who worked through these thorny, complex issues. In the end, this bill preserves our membership in information networks that are vital to education and research, and to our ability to fuel a stronger Wisconsin economy,” said Spector.

“Wisconsin and its public universities and colleges face many challenges. Large cuts will be felt by everyone, in the form of larger class sizes, reduced services, and higher staff workloads. But we are not alone in this struggle. We will tackle those challenges together, employing new management tools to maximum effect,” said Reilly.

UW System leaders also acknowledged other important provisions in the budget bill, such as a statutory change that will treat state and UW employees’ retirement contributions on a pre-tax basis. For an employee earning $36,000 per year, the ability to make pre-tax contributions will save an estimated $475 per year.