no funding for free tuition

There are times when I’d prefer to be wrong, but in this case, I was definitely correct in my analysis and prediction. Just a year ago, I wrote an entry in this blog about Governor Doyle’s intent to provide free tuition to Wisconsin veterans. And my basic point was simple. Doyle was wrong. Not only did he neglect to tell us how he intended to pay for such a plan, but he exploited the memories of dead American soldiers by making the announcement on Memorial Day. How shameful.

Wisconsin Governor Jim DoyleI expect more from my elected officials. Heck, I can be governor and make all kinds of proposals if I don’t have to pay for them. And who in their right mind is going to speak out against a tuition plan for veterans on Memorial Day? Me, that’s who. And as far as I know, I’m the only one.

Listen, as I said in my post last year, I am so grateful for what American service men and women have done for me. The fact that you’re reading this right now means that I had the freedom to write it. I don’t discount their sacrifices for a moment, and I’m the first to say that they deserve our utmost respect and gratitude. And I would love nothing more than to provide them with a free college education. But if Governor Doyle was truly interested in making a difference, he would have done the right thing and figured out how to pay for such a worthy plan. But he didn’t.

So, where does that leave us today? Well, the result hit the headlines of every major newspaper in the state yesterday. Here are a couple:

The AP article, which ran in the La Crosse Tribune, says in part, “…to pay for an unfunded mandate to give free tuition to veterans…most of the increases would be used to pay for a state program giving free tuition to veterans and some of their family members. Lawmakers and Gov. Jim Doyle created the program in 2006 but have not fully funded the benefits.”

But, nothing I’ve said so far is the worst part; here it is. Governor Doyle left the UW system with no choice but to increase tuition. With no funding, he left the burden up to the veterans’ classmates. Wisconsin taxpayers aren’t even paying for this! What a coward. “Hey veterans, you want free tuition? No problem. Just take up a collection from your classmates!” And this comes at a time when presidential candidates are talking about trying to make college education affordable.

Governor Doyle should be ashamed of himself. The UW Board of Regents will vote on the tuition increase next Thursday. They need to vote against it, and come up with a real plan with real funding, so that all Wisconsin taxpayers can give our veterans what they deserve.