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2016 Ambitions Seen In Walker's Push For University Cuts In Wisconsin

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the American Action Forum in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015.  Shifting his focus t
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the American Action Forum in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. Shifting his focus to Washington, Walker is expanding his political operation as he fights for early momentum in the increasingly crowded field of GOP White House prospects. The American Action Forum calls itself a center-right policy institute. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

MADISON, Wis. — Atop a steep hill on the University of Wisconsin campus is a granite boulder affixed with a bronze plaque honoring the university system’s lofty mission: to benefit the entire state by promoting public service and a search for truth.

Summed up in one phrase — “the boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state” — the mission statement, known as the Wisconsin Idea, has been cherished by educators and graduates for a century. So when Gov. Scott Walker, a second-term Republican, presented a budget this month proposing to delete some of its most soaring passages, as well as to sharply cut state aid to the system, he ignited a furious backlash that crossed party and regional lines.

“We were really upset about it,” said Tony Sumnicht, the student body president at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls, a small college in the western part of the state, echoing a sentiment voiced by some Republican lawmakers. “The Wisconsin Idea is the philosophy that during our years in college we live and learn by.”

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