- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Targets of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget cuts Wednesday said Walker’s recommended position cuts were too deep and would wind up costing the state money.

Walker would eliminate 446 full-time equivalent state positions, cut funding for public broadcasting and eliminate a board that oversees Wisconsin’s for-profit colleges.

“It’s disappointing that the governor would decide to do this. We’ve been good stewards of the state’s money,” said Gene Purcell, executive director of the state’s Educational Communications Board, which runs public broadcasting. His board faces a $5 million cut.

Walker would drop 66 positions at the Department of Natural Resources that “no longer serve the core mission of the agency.” Many of those positions are devoted to scientific research, prompting a lament from Kim Wright that outsourcing research will wind up being more expensive.

Wright, executive director of Midwest Environmental Advocates and a former DNR employee under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, also said it would send a signal that the DNR no longer values science.

“There’s this line below political control where you have the continuity and expertise in this really complicated job,” she said. “To diminish the capacity of our state science agency to make decisions for today … is so short-sighted on so many levels.”

DNR spokesman Bill Cosh said the agency has traditionally contracted with the University of Wisconsin System and others for some research. He said the agency remains committed to science.

Walker said he also wants to eliminate 60 prison jobs to save about $6 million over the two-year budget. He proposed eliminating third-shift tower guard positions because prisoners are in lockdown then.

Corrections spokeswoman Joy Staab said in a statement the department supported Walker’s proposal.

“We are confident that our staff … will implement this plan without risk to the public or internal safety,” Staab said.

The Educational Communications Board, meanwhile, is looking at a roughly one-third reduction from the $7.8 million it got in 2014. Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick in a statement Tuesday said the budget preserves state support for Amber Alert and other emergency functions carried out by public broadcasting.

Purcell said it would be a challenge for the board to make up the lost funding.

“It’s a serious cut. It’s a serious proposal and it’s likely to affect service at some level,” Purcell said.

Walker also proposed the elimination of the Educational Approval Board to save $1.42 million. That board regulates the state’s 244 for-profit degree and non-degree institutions. David Dies, executive secretary of the board, said the institutions enroll more than 60,000 Wisconsin residents in programs that range from certification in truck driving, welding and yoga to granting associate and bachelor’s degrees.

Dies said the board’s seven employees would be terminated if the proposal is carried out. He said it would be “a big step backward” to drop rules that require each institution to become state-authorized.

Various agency consolidations would eliminate 106 additional positions.

Walker’s budget is not final. Lawmakers now go to work on it and will submit a final version this summer.

Myranda Tanck, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said it is too soon to determine where the Republican caucus stands on the proposed position cuts. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

___

Associated Press reporter Todd Richmond contributed to this story.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bydanaferguson and follow Todd Richmond at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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