Gov. Walker is all about flexibility. Give communities flexibility to deal with deficits. Give UW flexibility to handle its own finances.
Here's an idea: How about giving communities and judges more flexibility in dealing with criminals? Fat chance. As expected, the governor has no interest in changing the highly centralized and grossly inflated state corrections system, which costs taxpayers as much as the entire UW System (including UW-Madison). It's the one big government initiative his hero Tommy Thompson championed (there were many) that he's not interested in doing away with.
Republicans are so hostile to cuts in ineffective prison spending that they deride policies that encourage good behavior from inmates as endangering the lives of innocent Wisconsinites. According to Rep. Scott Suder, the number two Republican in the Assembly, letting a guy out of jail after he's completed 80 percent of his sentence sends the wrong message.
That's why, of course, Walker has proposed eliminating the early-release program put in place in 2009. That the recidivism rate of the several dozen early-released inmates is lower than that of the general population is irrelevant. It sends the wrong message, Republicans contend.
In fact, despite a slight decline in prison population in recent years, the governor's budget suggests the corrections budget will increase in the coming years by 5.3 percent.
In Wisconsin, the state incurs the vast majority of prison expenses. In contrast, Minnesota delegates much more responsibility to localities. This probably increases maintenance and construction costs; however, it also encourages cities and towns to deal with their problem populations directly. Instead of the state shipping Milwaukee's criminals to Waupun, Milwaukee would have to make the tough decisions, and local policymakers can evaluate the social costs of, say, incarcerating a crack addict for five years.