UW System president faces questions from state lawmakers

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MADISON (WITI) -- The University of Wisconsin System president faced a panel of outraged lawmakers at the State Capitol on Tuesday, April 23rd. The lawmakers want to know how the UW System has a $650 million surplus at a time when students are being asked to pay more.

"I cannot see a time when we would say, 'We trust you,' because the trust has been broken," said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

One after another, the state lawmakers wound up and unloaded verbal assaults on UW System President Kevin Reilly.

"I just have to ask the question, what were you thinking?" asked Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

"I feel like I've been played over the last few months," said State Rep. John Nygren.

"A great lack of transparency is very bad," said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca.

Reilly quietly took it on the chin before responding.

"I hear the anger. I think in many ways it's justified," said Reilly.

The outrage over unspent money is heightened because university officials have been complaining about state budget cuts. They even increased tuition by 11 percent over the last two years.

"How can you justify raising tuition when you're squirreling away tuition?" asked State Sen. Alberta Darling.

Reilly says the excess money should really be looked at in three different ways, some of it restricted -- like gifts from donors that have to be spent on specific projects. Some is committed, like money in an account that goes to pay bills, and some is saved in a reserve, like money saved for a rainy day.

State Sen. Mike Ellis was insulted by the explanation. "This is a cloud burst, not a rainy day," said Ellis.

So should Reilly be fired? That's a question that will be answered sometime in the future. But Assembly Speaker Vos says, "There are serious concerns about his leadership."

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