Just how much of the UW will Walker control?

[Originally a blog post at the Badger Herald. No comments here, please comment there]

I thought it’d be interesting to look at Scott Walker’s influence on Board of Regents (the current, UW System-wide board) and the proposed Board of Trustees (UW-Madison specific.) Here is a Google Spreadsheetof the makeup of the two boards through 2022. It looks at the two boards under two different scenarios: one where Walker serves out a full four-year term, and one where a recall election is successful and Walker’s term ends on January 3 2013. In both cases, I assume that a Democrat is sworn in on January 3 2015. I did not hazard a guess as to which party wins the 2018 election. I also graphed the percentage of votes on the various boards that are direct Walker appointees below:

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Here’s the takeaway with one and only one full term: Walker obtains a majority of the Board of Regents in the middle of 2014, and holds it until the middle of 2016. Walker controls 45% of the Board of Regents from middle of 2013 until the middle of 2018. Walker’s influence on the Board of Regents is felt until 2021. With the Board of Trustees, Walker obtains a majority immediately, and can hold it until the middle of 2015. By the middle of 2015, he drops below 40%, and his influence ends the middle of 2017.

Under a recall scenario, Walker never obtains a full majority on the Board of Regents, peaking with 33% of the board in the middle of 2012. His four appointees hold 22% of the board until the middle of 2018, and they’re gone by the middle of 2019. For the UW-Madison Board of Trustees, he again obtains a majority immediately, but loses it middle of 2013, and vanishes by the middle of 2015.

The way to read this spreadsheet is “what do the Boards look like on January 1 of that year?” Regent terms run until May 1 of the year, and (presumably) Trustee terms run until July 1 – so someone listed under 2016 with a term expiring in 2016 will serve for about half the year, and then the Governor will appoint a new person for the 2nd half of the year. To simplify, I cheated a little bit and pretended that for 2011, everyone was already in place for the Board of Trustees.

Some other quirks: I count Tony Evers, the current DPI secretary, as a Democrat. He’s up for reelection in April of 2013, and while I’m pretty certain he’s going to win in 2013, I didn’t include that in the board makeup. There are two student Regents, who serve for staggered two-year terms. Inexplicably, and inexcusably, Doyle did not fill Kevin Opgenorth’s term before he left office. That gives Walker a student appointment on the Board of Regents right now, until May 1 2012, that otherwise would have been held by a Doyle appointee.

The Governor’s 11 appointees to the Board of Trustees serve staggered three-year terms. In the first year, they’ll divide up into three classes. If Walker serves a full term, it makes the most sense for him to divide it up as 3, 4, and 4 to maximize his appointees. If he thinks he will lose a recall, it makes the most sense to divide up 4, 3, 4.

A serious possible objection is that with the Board of Trustees, it’s not clear how to count the “UW” appointments, which are 10 members of the Board. It would not surprise me if WARF appoints Republican members of the Board. I am, however, counting on none of the UW appointments to be ideologues, and even the Republicans will be more like Mark Bugher.

Another objection is that I never account for the possibility that people may leave their term early. Flipping through their biographies, the Board of Regents aren’t exactly spring chickens, and unfortunately, they don’t always make it through their terms, as was the case with much-loved Milt McPike. With so many Doyle appointees, it would not surprise me at all if Walker got an extra one or two seats in the next four years, who might serve until 2017. If Walker fills a Doyle seat, it only goes until the regularly scheduled end of the term.

So, gross simplification: If you think of it in terms of absolute majorities, and that nothing bad will happen to any of the current Regents, Walker holds more time with a majority with the Board of Trustees and you should prefer the UW-Madison stay under the current Board of Regents. If you are concerned about how long Walker has a significant number of seats and influence on the board, though perhaps not a majority, he goes away faster with the Board of Trustees and you should prefer UW splits off into a separate authority.

All of these predictions depend on how much you want to trust the Faculty, Staff, Students, Alumni Association, WARF, and UW Foundation to make “good” picks, and how much of a chance you hope the Regents all have no life-altering events during their term.

However, it’s worth remembering that we’re thinking about the future of the University for the next generation or more. The exact makeup of the Board, at this particular instance in time, should be very low on your arguments for or against a Public Authority model and Board of Trustees for the UW-Madison.