Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday recommended spending $803 million on building projects across the state, which would be the smallest total spent on new construction, repair and renovation since he took office in 2011.
Walker said he was emphasizing maintaining current buildings over new construction.
He rejected about $93 million in projects at UW-Madison and $31 million for a new, 72-bed skilled nursing facility in Madison for veterans, which was recommended in 2015 by a state veterans task force.
The proposed $450 million in bonding would be the lowest requested borrowing for building projects in 20 years, Walker said.
The capital budget request comes as the Republican Walker is emphasizing his conservative credentials in advance of an expected run for a third term in 2018. It complements the state budget he released two weeks ago that seeks to expand funding for K-12 schools and the University of Wisconsin System, cut UW tuition while also reduce income taxes and hold the line on property taxes.
Walker’s proposed $803 million capital budget comes after $848 million was spent in the previous two years on building projects. In Walker’s first two years in office, 2011 to 2013, the capital budget was nearly $967 million and rose to $1.5 billion between 2013 and 2015.
The University of Wisconsin’s capital budget would be $128 million over the next two years, far less than the nearly $795 million the system requested. The system received $451 million the prior two years, $703 million between 2013 and 2015 and $420 million between 2011 and 2013.
System officials can seek approval from the state Building Commission to access more money from a fund that pays for repairs and renovations across state agencies. Walker’s budget calls for placing $361.3 million in that fund. Even if UW officials could obtain every dollar in that fund they still wouldn’t have enough to complete every project they want to undertake.
“We carefully developed a reasonable capital budget plan to perform a limited amount of work each year at a steady pace,” UW System President Ray Cross said in a statement. “The longer we delay these critical repairs, the more it ultimately costs students and taxpayers in the end.”
Some of the projects Walker recommend be funded include:
- $75 million replacement for the Wisconsin Department of Justice crime lab in Milwaukee. The facility will include space for DNA testing, toxicology reports, forensic imaging, evidence processing and law enforcement training, Walker said.
- $5 million to buy a Department of Natural Resources science facility in Monona that is currently leased and to add a new chronic wasting disease processing center there.
- $2.4 million to improve water quality at the veterans home at King, addressing concerns of residents and critics worried about the level of lead found in the water due to corrosion of the plumbing system. Over all, Walker is proposing about $14 million in new capital spending at King.
- $3 million to construct a new filter/treatment building near wells with high levels of iron and manganese and make drinking water system improvements at the state prison in Fox Lake.
- More than $33 million to repair Sandburg Hall at UW-Milwaukee.
- $5 million for a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Innovation Center in Green Bay. The center will also house UW-Green Bay’s new mechanical engineering degree program.
- $5 million to remodel and expand the 36-year-old La Crosse Center which is used for conventions, meetings, and banquets.
- $11 million to remove and replace the Little Falls Dam at Willow River State Park.
The State Building Commission will meet to decide on these recommendations in March.
The Wisconsin State Journal contributed to this report.