Republicans are already referring to the New Badger Partnership as roadkill.
Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to award the University of Wisconsin-Madison public authority status is dead, Republican officials confirmed Thursday.
"Those proposals have no life," says Mike Mikalsen, the spokesman for Rep. Steve Nass, R-Town of La Grange, who chairs the Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee.
This is a tough spot for Biddy Martin. Not only has she been accused of secretly conspiring with Walker to develop the public authority plan, but it now seems that Walker was either duping her or that neither of them realistically assessed the political implications of their proposal. When you make a deal with a governor, shouldn't he at least be able to guarantee you votes from his own party?
Now, officially, there never was any "deal" between Martin and Walker. There was a plan that Martin floated, a similar version of which Walker included in the budget. But the enormous budget cuts to UW that accompanied the plan begs the question: Was the public authority model just Walker's way to get UW-Madison to shut up about the money it was losing?
The problem for Martin now is that she is still losing out on $125 million of state aid for her campus. She must now raise her voice against the cuts after keeping mum for so long. However, since she almost certainly won't be able to get all of the funding restored, critics will claim her efforts were too little too late.
Even now, Martin is not indicating that she will shift the focus of her lobbying at the Capitol:
"It is my understanding that things are not done at the Capitol," Martin wrote in an email to the Capital Times. "As you know, major policy and budget decisions are often made close to the day of the vote. We're in the home stretch and I remain optimistic that our efforts in support of the New Badger Partnership will lead to a good outcome for UW-Madison, other System institutions, and the state of Wisconsin."
Can the UW System leaders up until now divided over Walker's perceived allegiance with Martin regroup and pressure the legislature to give higher education a better deal in the budget? It seems to me that even though UW-Madison will very likely remain a part of the UW System, its stated desire to be independent could jeopardize its ability to advocate for higher education in the state.
Because who does the UW-Madison have left to advocate its cause in the legislature? Its strongest supporters the Madison legislators are all in the minority. The closest thing it has to a Republican ally Sen. Dale Schultz, the sole Republican vote against the budget repair bill probably has less influence in the GOP caucus now than Karl Marx.
There's reason to believe this is one battle Scott Walker simply doesn't mind losing, or perhaps never intended to win. Faced with a backlash over his refusal to compromise on just about every other policy, he may be willing to surrender on the issue of higher ed. What does he care about the UW anyway?
But the following theory for why a compromise on UW is impossible is even more intriguing:
[Milkalsen] says there was concern among Rep. Nass and others that if language was inserted into the budget giving UW-Madison its own board within the Board of Regents that the "governor might be able to line-item veto that into some sort of separate authority for UW-Madison. And that was just a non-starter."
Steve Nass' paranoia has extended from foreign-born professors and socialists to Scott Walker. The power of the governor's veto is so expansive in Wisconsin that members of Walker's own party fear taking any initiative on a major issue if their position does not perfectly mirror his own. This is what democracy looks like.
Yet another argument in favor of reforming the veto in Wisconsin. Not only is it undemocratic to allow a governor such broad powers in rewriting legislation, but it leads to inaction on important issues, since the legislature often has no confidence that the policy it passes won't get turned into a policy that is worse than doing nothing at all.
Follow The Sconz on Twitter or Facebook to get regular updates on city and state politics. Tune in to the radio show everyday between 10-11 a.m. on 1670 AM WTDY. Please send anonymous tips, interview requests or any other comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.