UPDATE: Group files lawsuit against Walker over records

Cropped Photo: Gage Skidmore / MGN

UPDATED: Tuesday, May 19, 2015 --- 11:30 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A liberal advocacy group has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Scott Walker, saying he is illegally withholding records related to his proposal to rewrite the mission statement of the University of Wisconsin known as the "Wisconsin Idea."

The Center for Media and Democracy filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Dane County Circuit Court. The group was the first to report in February that Walker's budget would rewrite the "Wisconsin Idea" to focus on career readiness and drop references to public service and seeking a broader truth.

Walker called it a mistake and dropped the proposal.

The Center requested records from Walker's office related to the creation of the proposal, but Walker refused to turn some over.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice says the office is reviewing the lawsuit.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015
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UPDATED Monday, April 13, 2015---4:14 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker has officially asked the Legislature to keep the University of Wisconsin's guiding principle known as the "Wisconsin Idea" intact.

Walker was ridiculed in February for adding career readiness to the university's mission statement while dropping references to public service and seeking a broader truth.

Walker called the rewrite an unintentional mistake, even though emails showed his administration clearly ordered the word change.

Walker's administration on Monday sent a letter to the Legislature's budget committee formally asking that the "Wisconsin Idea" be maintained with no changes. Requests from governors to make revisions to their budget proposals are routine before the committee begins taking action on the plan.

The Joint Finance Committee planned to start taking votes on Walker's budget on Wednesday.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED: Friday, February 6, 2015 --- 2:30 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker said Thursday he never intended to dramatically rewrite the University of Wisconsin System's mission statement, even as a December email showed his administration clearly ordered that it drop a guiding principle known as the "Wisconsin Idea."

Walker, a likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate, called it a "mistake someone made" to assume that his desire to add career readiness to the mission statement meant to also drop references to public service and seeking a broader truth. Walker said no one would be disciplined, calling it a "matter of confusion."

The prospect of dropping the Wisconsin Idea, a cherished part of the university's history, sparked an immediate and intense backlash when it was noticed Wednesday in Walker's budget. UW System President Ray Cross said the Wisconsin Idea is "embedded in our DNA."

Walker seemed to defend the new language during an appearance Wednesday, saying it would better focus the UW System. Later that day he changed course, promising that the Wisconsin Idea would remain unchanged. His spokeswoman, Laurel Patrick, blamed the mission statement revisions on what she called "a drafting error."

But Walker changed his explanation on Thursday, saying it wasn't a drafting error but rather a mistake made by someone in his administration who misunderstood his direction to add career readiness to the mission statement.

"To me, in the end, it was a confusion out there, a mistake someone made," Walker said. "What we wanted was to keep it simple and not make changes other than to add this item about workforce and career development."

Walker's comments came after The Associated Press reviewed the administration's drafting instructions to the nonpartisan agency that writes the budget on its behalf. A Dec. 30 email from Department of Administration budget analyst Nathan Schwanz to Legislative Reference Bureau drafter Mark Kunkel directed specific changes to the mission statement.

Those changes included stating that the system's goal is to meet the state's workforce needs and eliminating existing language laying out the mission as extending knowledge, searching for truth and improving the human condition. The Legislative Reference Bureau followed the instructions exactly and included the revisions in the final version of the budget.

Patrick said in an email Thursday that the governor's office directed the Department of Administration to add "an additional tie to workforce readiness" in the mission statement and the office didn't see or approve the actual changes.

Walker told reporters Thursday he never directed the language to be deleted and didn't learn it had been until Wednesday night. He said he never intended to erase the Wisconsin Idea and thought questions about it a day earlier were about adding language on career readiness.

"People want to make a big deal about it. It's not a big deal," he said.

After the governor spoke Thursday, Walker issued an unusual 485-word statement reiterating that he wanted to add a nod to workforce development and his budget office mistakenly believed he wanted to the mission statement to say only that.

Cross told the Board of Regents on Thursday he thought the governor's statement did a good job explaining what happened. He said he also got an apology by phone from state budget director Michael Heifetz.

"How can he run for president when he can't even get his state budget document right?" asked Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate in a conference call. Tate said Walker is distracted by the likely White House run, citing trips the governor made to Iowa, California and Washington, D.C., in the days before he released his budget.

"Maybe if he spent a little more time reviewing his budget and doing his job, Scott Walker would have caught this so-called drafting error," Tate said.

Besides the mission statement revision, Walker's budget calls for a $300 million cut in funding for the UW System while giving it more freedom from state laws and oversight.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015

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UPDATED: Thursday, February 5, 2015 --- 4:19 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Democrats are slamming Republican Gov. Scott Walker over him saying it was a mistake for his budget to propose eliminating the guiding principle of the University of Wisconsin.

Walker proposed removing the Wisconsin Idea from UW's mission statement, then backtracked and said Thursday that it was a simple mistake that's being blown out of proportion. Walker also said he was unaware of the proposed change until the day after the budget came out.

Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate questioned in a conference call Thursday how Walker could consider running for president if he couldn't get his budget document right.

Democratic state Rep. Chris Taylor, of Madison, says Walker needs to take responsibility for the error and "own it."

Copyright: Associated Press 2015
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UPDATED: Thursday, February 5, 2015 --- 10:36 a.m.

WATERTOWN, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker says it was not his intention to order that the University of Wisconsin's mission statement be altered to remove the central tenant of the Wisconsin Idea.

Walker on Thursday said it was a "mistake someone made" to assume that his desire to add career readiness to the mission statement meant to also delete references to public service and seeking a broader truth. But Walker says no one will be disciplined for it, calling it a "matter of confusion."

Orders Walker's administration gave to bill drafters show that they were instructed to delete existing language calling for extending knowledge, searching for truth and stimulating society.

The move generated a backlash and Walker says he's going to fix the language to keep the Wisconsin Idea intact.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015
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UPDATED: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 -- 5:30 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker has abruptly backed off his proposal to eliminate the University of Wisconsin System's public service mission statement.

Walker tucked language into his budget proposal that would have replaced the statement, known as the "Wisconsin Idea," with the charge of meeting the state's workforce needs. The move drew the ire of UW System President Ray Cross, who says the Wisconsin Idea is the reason the system exists.

A Walker spokeswoman issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon calling the move a drafting error. She says the Wisconsin Idea will remain in the budget.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015

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UPDATED: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 -- 2:41 p.m.

MADISON, Wis.--- UW System President Ray Cross released a statement on the Wisconsin Idea.

“The Wisconsin Idea is embedded in our DNA. It is so much more than words on a page. It is the reason the UW System exists. It defines us and forever will distinguish us as a great, public university. Wisconsin must not abandon this core principle and value. We will work to preserve the Wisconsin Idea in every form.”

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Posted: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 --- 2:32 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker is proposing eliminating the public service mission of the University of Wisconsin, known as the "Wisconsin Idea," replacing it with the charge to meet the state's workforce needs.

The wording change was included in Walker's budget released Tuesday. He's also calling for cutting $300 million from UW while also giving it more autonomy and freedom from state laws and oversight.

Walker proposes that the university's mission be "to meet the state's workforce needs." He wants to remove language saying UW's mission be to "extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campus" and to "serve and stimulate society."

The Wisconsin Idea has been a guiding principle of the university for more than a century, extending to teaching, research, outreach and public service.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015