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LeMahieu opposes Vos withholding UW pay raises over DEI

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu says he hopes to see raises approved by end of this legislative session

Senator Devin LeMahieu stands with other legislators during a press conference.
Senator Devin LeMahieu speaks to reporters after an address by Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu says he doesn’t support Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ move to block pay raises for those working at the Universities of Wisconsin until diversity, equity and inclusion programs are eliminated.

Pay raises for state employees, including UW workers, were included in the state budget passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Tony Evers this summer. The 6 percent pay increase would be spread over the next two years. Before those raises could go into effect, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Employee Relations had to sign off.

In September, Vos, who co-chairs the committee, said he would try to block UW pay raises for around 34,000 UW employees in an attempt to pressure administrators at the Universities of Wisconsin and campuses to eliminate DEI programs and staff. On Oct. 17, the committee approved raises for all state employees except those working for the UW.

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During a Monday interview with WisconsinEye, LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, said he doesn’t support withholding the pay increases.

“I understand what the speaker is trying to accomplish with that,” LeMahieu said. “We should be focusing on getting the best student, regardless of orientation, skin color or ethnicity.”

But LeMahieu said most employees at state universities and colleges don’t have control over DEI initiatives.

“They’re just going in and doing their jobs, cutting the grass or doing maintenance or whatever,” LeMahieu said. “And so, with the inflation that’s going on, I think I would like to get that done sooner rather than later.”

Evers is suing Republican lawmakers for blocking the UW pay raises. In a statement, the governor said legislators are “unconstitutionally and unlawfully obstructing basic government functions” to try and dismantle campus DEI programs.

LeMahieu wants UW-Madison Engineering building funded

LeMahieu was also asked by WisconsinEye where he stands on Republican lawmakers’ decision not to fund a new engineering building at UW-Madison amid a statewide shortage of engineers.

“That’s another thing that, hopefully, we can get done by the end of session — to get the engineering building started,” LeMahieu said. “That’s (graduating engineers) one thing that the UW system does well.”

A spokesperson with Vos’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on LeMahieu’s remarks Monday afternoon.

Editors note: WPR workers are employees of UW-Madison.