Gov. Tony Evers is asking state agencies to identify $250 million in potential cost savings for the current fiscal year that runs through the end of June 2021.
This comes after state agencies cut $70 million from last fiscal year’s budget due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on our nation, state, communities, businesses, and families,” Evers said in a statement. “In the face of continued [federal government] inaction and uncertainty, the unfortunate reality is that we must take these steps and make more significant cuts.”
According to the release, state agencies will evaluate key services to maintain, with the goal of prioritizing relevant, quality and timely services they provide.
“We have hard and urgent decisions before us, but I have full confidence that my colleagues will rise to the challenge the governor presents us with today,” said Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan.
The announcement received initial pushback from stakeholders in the University of Wisconsin System, who said the system had already shouldered a disproportionate amount of the cuts from last fiscal year.
“In addition to providing invaluable educational opportunity, our universities are critical to every regional economy in Wisconsin,” said UW System President Tommy Thompson.
“I am working with the Governor’s office to manage these further cuts,” he added. “We have a compelling case, and I believe the Governor will be helpful.”
UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said the campus is also having to deal with increased operating costs due to the pandemic, including personal protective equipment for the campus community and investments in virtual learning. Before the cuts, she said the campus would incur an estimated $150 million hit due to the pandemic.
According to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo from April, the state could see a tax revenue reduction in the hundreds of millions due to the pandemic.
Evers said federal funds could help bridge the budgetary gap, but that he could not wait for federal action.
This comes the same day local officials called for federal assistance to help municipal governments’ budgets.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic carries on, there will be a continued need for support from the federal government to help our community with testing, eviction prevention, emergency food assistance, and small business funding,” said Dane County Exec. Joe Parisi during a Wednesday news conference.
“This pandemic is far from over,” he added, “and we need all systems of support working together to address our community’s needs during this unprecedented time.”
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