Republicans on the Wisconsin Legislature’s budget committee voted to spend $1.9 billion on building projects across the state, with the bulk of the funding tied to UW System initiatives.
The overall proposal is $600 million less than the $2.5 billion Gov. Tony Evers initially sought in his capital budget request, though the approximately $1 billion in funding for campus building projects is largely similar among both.
Members on a 12-4 party-line vote also approved freeing up $5 million to take initial steps to replace the Green Bay Correctional Institution and $100 million for a new Wisconsin Historical Museum in Madison. But the motion didn’t include $98.5 million for a new state office building in Milwaukee or funding for an Alliant Energy Center expansion in Dane County.
Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, said it “stings a little” to see Milwaukee and Madison-area projects “zeroed out” in the Republican plan.
But he largely focused on the removal of the $115 million in funding Evers sought to build up to three new prisons for serious juvenile offenders — a move Goyke said could delay the implementation of a bipartisan law from last year that moved to close the state’s embattled youth prisons, Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake.
“What are you waiting for? You think we won’t need a facility for juveniles at all, is that what you’re saying?” he demanded, later adding: “The (bill) passed unanimously over a year ago and what we do here tonight, this Republican motion, presses pause, shifts the car into neutral.”
Republican Rep. Mark Born countered that while the bonding was removed, the facilities are still enumerated, giving state agencies the ability to continue to work on the project and bring lawmakers plans to consider future bonding amounts.
The Beaver Dam lawmaker said the state is still moving forward on the effort, and the Legislature still has “the opportunity to work” in a bipartisan way.
In all, Republicans voted to allocate $24 million toward Department of Corrections projects, rather than the $259 million Evers wanted.
Evers' $2.5 billion overall capital budget request included nearly $2 billion in proposed new bonding. In all, the ask was more than three times what former Gov. Scott Walker requested in his final budget for building projects, which totalled nearly $804 million.
On UW System initiatives, much of what Evers laid out in his request was approved by the committee Tuesday night, though two UW-La Crosse building projects were not. The $1 billion lawmakers supported was less than the $1.9 billion UW officials had requested.
System President Ray Cross, who lamented the committee's UW System funding plan a couple weeks ago, applauded the "very strong investment" in campus infrastructure.
“This will help us modernize laboratories and classrooms, repair aging and unsafe facilities, and replace obsolete structures," he said in a statement. "This long-term investment will help attract and retain more students and faculty.”
The State Building Commission in March voted to reject Evers’ capital budget plan, as lawmakers deadlocked 4-4 on each of the governor’s provisions. While the commission couldn’t agree on a recommendation, the proposal was still sent to the Joint Finance Committee.