Republican leaders of the Wisconsin Legislature withheld pay raises for state university system employees on Tuesday in an effort to force the system to cut spending on diversity, equity and inclusion programs, The Wisconsin Law Journal reported.
The lawmakers approved raises for other state workers, however, illustrating their continued politicization of and opposition to DEI efforts and policies in state higher education.
Republican Assembly speaker Robin Vos, co-chair of the employment relations committee, promised to block pay raises for Universities of Wisconsin employees until the system cuts its DEI spending by $32 million, according to the Associated Press. Vos said the $32 million reflects what the system spent on DEI efforts over a two-year period.
Senate minority leader Melissa Agard, a Democrat, said the committee was only “doing half our job today” by denying a raise to university administrators, faculty and staff, who she said make up half of the state’s workforce.
Republican lawmakers also slashed UW’s funding in June. Democratic governor Tony Evers used his veto power to save 188 DEI positions at the system that were also proposed for elimination, but the funding cut remained.
Evers said the committee’s decision Tuesday was “as dumb as it comes.”
“These people deserve raises,” Evers told reporters after the vote. “It’s been passed by the Legislature, and to have it be hijacked at the last minute by one person, that’s wrong, too.”