Walker vs. Walker

Update: PolitiFact rates Governor Walker’s claim as “…not only inaccurate, but ridiculous. Pants on Fire.”

First, it was a drafting error. Now it’s not.


Excerpt from an attachment to a Dec. 30 email proposed the changes such as deleting the phrase, “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.”

As discussed in Wednesday’s post, the Governor had proposed deleting a substantial amount of text from the mission statement for the University of Wisconsin, including explicit removal of the “search for truth”. In a lengthy and detailed press release early on Thursday, the Governor related the chain of events leading to the drafting error.

“We encourage a vigorous debate over the idea of an authority to govern the University of Wisconsin system or the status quo, as well as a debate about what is the real amount of savings that can be generated by an authority, which we believe is worth $150 million a year. However, there is no debate over the principles contained within the Wisconsin Idea. We are, and have been, in agreement.

“So how did a change to the Wisconsin Idea get into the budget?

“While we had extensive discussions about the merits of an authority and about variations of how higher education is organized in other states, my staff, the state budget team, and I did not have much discussion about the mission statement. The only real mention was about adding something to existing language related to workforce development.

“Staff from the UW, the state budget office, and my office met several times to discuss the authority idea. In anticipation of these meetings, draft language was prepared by the state budget shop to serve as a starting point. At this initial meeting, my Chief of Staff directed the state budget office and the UW to continue working on statutory language changes and to elevate concerns or disagreements to his attention when agreement could not be reached. The guiding principle was to keep this process simple because the main focus was on providing the maximum amount of flexibility under the new authority.

“Staff from the UW System reviewed drafts of the budget language on various occasions, so I was surprised we had not heard concerns about the final version. Late on Wednesday, my Chief of Staff spoke again with UW System staff and found that they had raised a concern with the state budget office about the specific language. Unfortunately, when my office told the budget staff to keep it simple, they took that to mean that we only wanted workforce readiness language in the mission when we really wanted the language added to the existing mission statement. They also responded to UW staff that this change was not open for discussion because they were told to keep it simple and only add in workforce readiness language.

“Clearly, changing the Wisconsin Idea serves no purpose. That is why I made it clear on Wednesday that we would not change it in the budget. It is not a change of heart. It was a simple miscommunication during the natural back and forth of this process.

Emphasis added in bold face.

Later today, additional information came out. From Jason Stein, Patrick Marley, and Karen Herzog, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

…In a rapid revision to his own comments on Wednesday, the Republican governor acknowledged that UW System officials had raised objections about the proposal.

They had been told the changes were not open to debate.

While backtracking on earlier comments to reporters, Walker continued to insist in a statement that he hadn’t known what his own administration was doing until after the proposal became public and caused a firestorm of criticism.

He said no one would be disciplined.

13 thoughts on “Walker vs. Walker

  1. Tony Thomson

    Ah, the ever vital mission statement…right up there in importance with the color of the blinds in the cafeteria…always good to care about the things that matter…

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Tony Thomson aka cthomson: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been hankering to get that bit “We the people” chopped out of the U.S. Constitution. In any case, I am sure you would agree that it would read much better “We the corporations…” or “We the propertied class members…”

      1. Tony Thomson

        Sorry professor – I underestimated the tragic implications for WI locals of losing any of the red hot relevance of Fighting Bob Lafollette and his splendid era. Hence the censorship of Lux et Veritas? I guess its all too close to home? All that change? Republican governors? Pulling the public sector unions away from the trough?

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Tony Thomson aka cthomson: So I take that as assent that you would like to excise the preamble to the Constitution. Thanks for the confirmation.

          1. Tony Thomson

            With respect I don’t see the connection between a great federal Constitution – approved and amended nationally – and some late 19th/early 20th century regional political pieties. I can see that it is hard for liberal/progressives to admit that their beliefs smack of old-fashioned revival tent stuff. Bring on Fighting Bob? William Jennings Bryan? Even Hube the Boob Humphrey?

  2. RobertB

    Help, I meant to subscribe to Econbrowser, but I somehow got Wisconbrowser, the blog about local midwest politics, instead!

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      RobertB: Apologies. I’ll be sure to do something on Georgia in a post soon. Especially if your governor is considering a run for president.

  3. Nick G

    Econbrowser isn’t about public policy?

    Mission statements aren’t a statement of public policy, especially at UW?

    It’s not co-authored by a UW professor, who might be expected to care about public policy at UW?

  4. Wisco

    These dismissive comments seem pretty ignorant of history. Wisconsin economists were part and parcel of the Wisconsin Idea during its heyday. Edwin Witte, Richard Ely, Henry Taylor, John Commons- they all practiced a unique public economics that continues to shape Wisconsin and the nation. The recent actions of an aspirational governor designed to undercut this legacy should give pause to anyone who believes in the public good. See: http://www.aae.wisc.edu/news/47/

  5. Bruce Hall

    It’s a bit lengthy for a mission statement because goals are included, but it’s not that big of a deal that Walker’s budget team should have bothered messing with it and raising a fuss… especially the part about making “efficient and effective use of human and physical resources.” This appears to be more about the battle of the bureaucrats.

    1. baffling

      if walker successfully modifies the mission statement to his liking, then in the future he can enforce what the statement says-even if the university as a whole does not approve. why? because it is in the mission statement of course. so it is a big deal to not allow an individual to arbitrarily change the mission statement which represents thousands of constituents who had no input on the change. you can bet he would not backtrack if the change had gone further. devious attempt to make changes through the back door.

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