In Scott Walkers cut cut cut cut Wisconsin State Budget, one item passed under the radar: we're now spending more tax dollars on keeping people in prison than we spend on our state university system.
For 2011-'13, Gov. Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers allotted the state's public universities just under $2.1 billion to the Department of Corrections' $2.25 billion, a gap that is unlikely to close any time soon. In total, the University of Wisconsin System will receive approximately $315.8 million in cuts over two years while the corrections budget will take a $53.8 million hit over the same period.Not only that, but they massively increased the tuition that Wisconsinites pay to attend our public university system and stripped 18% out of the paychecks of every state employee to pay for benefits as well as stripping their union rights to negotiate anything besides wages under a narrowly state-defined limit.
Priorities. Prison over education. Tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest in Wisconsin paid for by cuts to our children, our elderly, our public employees, and our most vulnerable citizens. Even I I can't find any snark that fits.
It didn't happen overnight, though.
In 1990, the Department of Corrections laid claim to less than half the funds apportioned to the UW System, receiving $178.6 million to the universities' $698.2 million. Even then, the state prison population was growing.
In the 1990s, Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson made moves to crack down on crime and instituted "truth in sentencing." In that decade, Wisconsin used its budget surplus to build additional prisons and incarcerate more than 13,000 people.
In 2003, Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, pledged to end Wisconsin's prison-building boom , but prison spending didn't immediately slow . Late in his second term, Doyle's proposed early-release programs took effect, only to be repealed one year later.
In 1990, the prison population was just under 7,000. Now, it tops 22,000.Most of that increase in due to former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompsons harsh sentencing laws rather than an increase in criminal activity. Fear of being called "soft on crime" prevents the enactment of more reasonable sentencing laws.
It's sad when we spend more on prisons than preparing the next generation for their futures and to insure a well educated citizenry that will attract business.