Wisconsin Gov. Walker will have final say on journalism center’s future

By Andrew Lapin

The fate of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism now rests with Gov. Scott Walker, and will be revealed by Sunday.

An amendment that would have removed the provision in the latest state budget evicting the nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism center from university property was brought to the Senate floor June 20, where it was voted down 17-16. The provision now moves to Walker’s desk, where the Republican governor could choose to veto or sign it into law along with the rest of the budget.

Walker announced Wednesday he plans to sign the budget Sunday, and will announce any vetoes either that day or prior, according to the Associated Press.

Earlier this month, Republicans in the state legislature slipped in the provision that would bar the center from housing its offices on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where it shares a facilities-use agreement in exchange for gaining access to paid student interns and other university resources. The center collaborates on stories with Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio, both of which are university-owned. The provision also would prohibit university employees from working directly with the center, which would put an end to its public media collaborations.

The vote to keep the provision followed several minutes of heated debate, during which many Republicans reiterated their stated belief that state government entities should not be supporting journalistic outlets.

“The issue is having a nonprofit in the UW System … having the taxpayer pay for that, when it’s a nonprofit,” State Sen. Alberta Darling (R) said. “How do you decide which nonprofit is going to get into the UW, have free rent and the taxpayer is going to pick up the tab? That’s the issue.”

Andy Hall, the center’s executive director, has insisted that taking the proposed actions against the center would not save taxpayers any money. Additionally, columnists in Wisconsin have pointed out that the state already leases space in its Capitol building to both public and private outlets covering state policy.

Undaunted, the center recently announced a new hire: Reporter Ron Seely, recently retired from the Wisconsin State Journal, joined the staff part time June 20 as a reporter, editor and student mentor.

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