EDITORIAL: Yes, pinch UW cash pipeline

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Force the system to draw down fat reserve funds.

DURING THE BATTLE over actions initiated by Gov. Scott Walker in 2011 in response to a $3.6 billion budget deficit, the University of Wisconsin system was sitting on a dirty little secret.

It was squirreling away a growing stash of cash. By the time that surplus was brought to light recently it had grown to nearly two-thirds of a billion dollars.

All the while the UW decision-makers kept right on jacking up tuition and whining to state officials how cash-strapped the system had become, begging for more money. It was a scam. But one must give credit where credit is due. Their scam worked, for a long time.

NOW WALKER has done what he should. He is calling for reducing a proposed UW budget increase by about half. Meanwhile, he wants to impose a freeze on tuition increases for a period of time.

If UW officials think that pinches their style, they can dip into reserves to cover costs. Until, of course, reserves run out. Then they actually might have to stare austerity in the face.

In our view, there’s little room for legitimate debate over whether Walker and legislators should rein in the UW system. The only real debate should be over whether the rollback proposed by the governor, along with a tuition freeze, is enough. After all, it’s still an increase — just a smaller increase.

What does that buy state taxpayers? And why should taxpayers trust the same people who hid the surplus to now spend more money wisely.

THESE DAYS, few Americans are wired to trust government. Throw in incidents like this, with taxpayers feeling flimflammed, and healthy skepticism can quickly turn into crippling cynicism.

Government, American-style, is supposed to exist only through the consent of the governed. In a year marked by the WEDC’s failures in Madison and the IRS being used for partisan purposes in Washington, the governed ought to be a lot less inclined to meekly consent.

We support Walker’s tough-love approach with the UW. Legislators should work with the governor to make it happen. The message to UW decision-makers should be, “The beatings will continue until you get it.”

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