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Gov. Evers recommends $2.38 billion in Capital Budget spending

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engineering bldg
Engineering building on the UW-Madison campus. It would be replaced under Gov. Evers 2021-23 capital budget

MADISON (WKOW) -- Governor Tony Evers on Monday released its list of proposed capital budget projects for the 2021-23 budget cycle. Nearly half of the funding would go toward the UW System, including a trio of major projects on the flagship Madison campus.

The plan includes a new $164 million state office building in Milwaukee and redeveloping a state-owned block in downtown Madison to replace a state office building and combine with the state's historical museum.

The $2.38 billion Capital Budget includes projects in 31 counties across Wisconsin. The Evers administration cited low bond rates as the reason it's now an ideal time to make a major investment in state infrastructure.

“The capital budget is an investment in the up-keep of our infrastructure for longevity and public safety and in the future we want to build for our state," said a quote attributed to Evers in the statement.

$1 billion is allocated to the UW System. Evers' capital budget also includes $150 million would go into a general fund for a series of building projects within the UW System.

Projects proposed under the funding available for the UW-Madison campus include the construction of a five-story building at the corner of Park St. and Johnson St. that would house the history department and ethnic studies offices among other programs in the College of Letters & Science.

Robert Cramer, Associate Vice Chancellor of Facilities Planning and Management, said the project would allow the university to move offices and classes out of the 52-year-old Mosse Humanities Building.

"About 60 percent of the student courses go through L&S so it's a huge number of the undergraduates," Cramer said.

The $88 million project would receive $65 million in taxpayer dollars; the other $23 million is expected to be covered by university donors.

Another major project on the Madison campus would be the replacement of an engineering research building that opened in 1938. Like the humanities building, Cramer said the engineering facility has outlived its usefulness.

"It houses a significant amount of research, still," Cramer said of the 83-year-old engineering building. "Faculty are in that building every day both teaching and doing their research and it's served its useful life and, at this point, it's not effective to have teaching labs in there."

The engineering building's demolition and replacement would cost an estimated $150 million; under the capital budget, the state would provide $100 million while donors provide the remaining $50 million.

The budget plan for UW-Madison also includes a $26 million renovation of Music Hall. Cramer said, in each instance, there's value for the public in upgrading the facilities while avoiding the sunk costs of putting any more money into outdated buildings.

"Staying in this building [Mosse Humanities] will cost us millions and millions of dollars also," Cramer said. "Because of the deferred maintenance and the problems in the building."

Both the new humanities building and engineering research facility would open by January 2028 under the plan.

The budget provides $59 million for the complete renovation of Winther Hall at UW-Whitewater, as well as roof and exterior window replacement at Heide Hall. It also provides $7 million to begin planning for a massive project at UW-Platteville, renovating Ottensman Hall while demolishing a faculty office tower and four former student residence halls.

“We greatly appreciate the investment in our infrastructure Governor Evers calls for in his proposed capital budget," said UW System President Tommy Thompson in a statement. "It will allow UW System to make some long-needed improvements that will enhance learning, teaching, and research – serving our students and the state of Wisconsin. We look forward to working with the legislature as it begins the budget process in the coming weeks.”

Going off campus

Evers' Capital Budget proposal also includes $4 million to begin the process of redeveloping the block that includes GEF 1, also known as the State Labor Building, on the block of E. Washington Ave. between Butler St. and Webster St.

The budget proposal seeks to redevelop the building, saying the 50-year-old structure has "outlived its usefulness" and is currently underutilized following the Department of Children and Families moving to the Tommy G. Thompson Center.

The only current tenant of the building is the Department of Workforce Development. Evers' proposal would explore the possibility of building a new state office building at the site and combining it with the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum, which is currently on the square at 30 N. Carroll.

The report states the museum does not have enough room at its currently location and has neither sheltered loading docks nor an area to prepare exhibits.

The capital budget also includes funding for repairing or replacing correctional and health services facilities within the state's juvenile justice system.

The budget would also provide dollars for proposed renovations to Veterans Homes and Veterans Cemeteries across the state.

"It's about our priorities—from investing in sustainable energy options and protecting our public lands, to supporting the growth of our UW campuses and students, to reforming our juvenile justice system, to investing in community development," Evers said according to the statement. "This capital budget will have a far-reaching impact on our communities and our state for generations to come.” 

The State Building Commission is set to meet on March 17 to vote on the Capital Budget recommendations. Those recommendations are required to go before the Joint Committee on Finance by the first Tuesday in April.

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A. J. Bayatpour

Reporter, WKOW 27

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