A senator on the state's powerful budget committee told university leaders to stop arguing over the fate of UW-Madison within the University of Wisconsin System.
"Rather than fighting, sit down and work together so we can move this university system and UW-Madison campus forward," said Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon.
His comments came after some three hours of testimony from UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin and UW System President Kevin Reilly before the Joint Finance Committee.
Martin and Reilly have spent the last few weeks lobbying for two different proposals: Martin supports a plan in Gov. Scott Walker's budget that would give UW-Madison public authority status, while Reilly and the UW Board Regents want to keep the UW System together.
It remains to be seen whether the two sides will be able to find middle ground. They both agree UW campuses need more freedom from state regulations in the face of budget cuts, but argue on the model that autonomy should take.
"Separation is not necessary for UW-Madison to gain the flexibility it needs," Reilly said.
But Martin disagreed. She said Reilly's proposal won't give UW-Madison the tools it needs, specifically when it comes to managing funds and personnel.
She wants the UW-Madison campus to have control on the campus level, saying some UW System initiatives "tax human and financial resources."
"We need the freedom to decide locally what's best for our individual campuses," she said.
At the hearing on Thursday, some legislators expressed concern that the state Legislature would lose oversight under the new models.
"Along with flexibility, there has to be accountability measures," said Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls.
Reilly warned of the possible cost of a "divorce" between the UW System and UW-Madison.
In response, Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, quipped that having been through a divorce, "the process was messy, but the results were delightful."