By RYAN J. FOLEY (AP)
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A lawmaker who persuaded the Assembly to eliminate all state funding for the University of Wisconsin law school says his reasoning is simple: There's too many lawyers in Wisconsin.
'We don't need more ambulance chasers. We don't need frivolous lawsuits. And we don't need attorneys making people's lives miserable when they go to family court for divorces,' said Rep. Frank Lasee, R-Green Bay. 'And I think that having too many attorneys leads to all those bad results.'
Objection! Law School Dean Kenneth Davis said Thursday. Davis said the plan would either force the school to jack up its tuition by $5,000 per year or cut essential programs.
Overruled! Lasee's colleagues in the Republican-controlled Assembly included his plan Tuesday in their version of the two-year, $56 billion state budget, which they approved on a 51-44 vote. ...
Lasee said the proposal would gradually reduce a $7 million annual state subsidy for the law school, starting with a $1 million cut this year. Funding would be cut by $2 million more each year and eliminated in 2010.
But Davis said he believes Lasee's numbers are flawed: The school receives only $2.5 million per year in state funding, or 10 percent of its $20 million budget. Still, it would have to increase its $12,600 annual tuition, which is the lowest in the Big 10 Conference and enables many low-income students to attend.
"That would be a very bitter pill to swallow for us," Davis said. "We have a national reputation for access to legal education."
Lasee said he would welcome a significant tuition increase for prospective lawyers or a cut in the school's 810-student enrollment.
"When we have an overabundance of attorneys already, there's no point in subsidizing the education of more attorneys," Lasee said.
More than 14,000 Wisconsin residents are practicing lawyers, according to the American Bar Association, which puts the state in the middle of the pack nationally for its overall number of attorneys.
Davis said the law school has educated many political and business leaders and was proud of its record.
Its alumni include former Gov. Tommy Thompson, six out of seven state Supreme Court justices and several of Lasee's colleagues. Two of them - Rep. Mark Gundrum, R-New Berlin, and Rep. Sheryl Albers, R-Reedsburg - voted for the budget that slashed their alma mater's funding....
In his seventh two-year term, Lasee, 45, has a knack for making headlines. He drew national attention last year when he suggested arming teachers in response to a string of school shootings. He's best known as an anti-tax crusader who has unsuccessfully pushed a constitutional amendment to limit government spending. ...
I am, for the moment, officially speechless.