Evers proposes $3.8 billion in state building projects
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday proposed spending $3.8 billion on building projects in 28 counties around the state, with nearly half directed toward work across the University of Wisconsin System.
The plan will first go to the state building commission on March 23 for consideration, but it would ultimately need the approval of the Republican-controlled Legislature. Republicans slashed Evers’ spending proposals on building projects in each of his past two budgets.
Two years ago, Republicans approved spending $1.5 billion on building projects out of the $2.4 billion that Evers proposed. In 2019, Evers’ first budget, Republicans approved $1.9 billion out of $2.5 billion that Evers wanted.
Republican Rep. Mark Born, co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee, accused Evers of proposing “massive spending and unrealistic growth.” He said the Legislature’s plan, which is likely to be finalized in June, will prioritize projects that “ensure we’re in a strong position for the future.”
Unlike in previous years, which relied heavily on borrowing to pay for the projects, Evers this time proposed paying for about half of the work in cash, citing the state’s record-high budget surplus of about $7 billion.
“Our historic surplus means we have historic opportunity and responsibility to invest in key projects that have long been neglected while still staying well within our means, keeping borrowing low, and saving taxpayers money in the long run,” Evers said in a statement.
Evers called for spending $1.8 billion on projects at UW campuses. That includes $347 million to demolish and replace the engineering building on the UW-Madison campus; $231 million to demolish the science building at UW-Eau Claire and build a new facility to house several programs; $182 million to demolish and replace the science building at UW-La Crosse, and $169 million to partially demolish, renovate and build a new art building at UW-Madison.
Two years ago, Republicans approved nearly $629 million in projects at UW, down from the $1 billion Evers wanted.
Other proposed projects include $41 million in fiberoptic upgrades at the state Capitol to improve cellular service; $225 million for health services facilities; an additional $60 million for the already approved construction of a new state history museum near the Capitol; and $84 million for improvements at a variety of Wisconsin National Guard facilities.
There are a host of local projects, including funding for the Milwaukee Iron District, Woodman’s Sports and Convention Center in Janesville, Green Bay National Railroad Museum, Marquette University School of Dentistry and the Door County Peninsula Players Theatre.