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Spending plan would build labs, support Bradley Center

RYAN J. FOLEY
AP Writer

Madison (AP) — Gov. Jim Doyle is proposing a $1.4 billion spending plan for state buildings that includes construction of several new research laboratories and a first-time state subsidy for the Bradley Center.

Doyle’s plan includes a major expansion at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, new energy and medical research buildings at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a new state public health laboratory in Madison. His plan also would spend $5 million over 10 years on maintenance at the Bradley Center, home of the Milwaukee Bucks.

The state Building Commission was expected to approve the plan with some changes Wednesday. Its version will be sent to the Legislature to be included in the next two-year state budget, including any changes made by lawmakers.

Building Commission Secretary David Helbach said the plan balances the state’s difficult budget climate with the need to stimulate the economy. Doyle rejected requests for hundreds of millions of dollars while investing in worthwhile projects that will create jobs, he said.

But some Republicans say the plan still spends and borrows too much when the state is facing a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall. The plan calls for the state to pay for $484 million in bonding. The remainder of the projects would be paid with by private donations, federal grants, fees and other revenue.

Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield, said he would try to cut back the governor’s requests. He is one of the eight commissioners, along with the governor, two other senators, three representatives and a citizen.

“I think he’s spending too much money again and using too much debt,” Kanavas said. “My concern is, if we obligate the state to a bunch of projects over the long term, suddenly we’re going to be looking at higher borrowing costs and higher construction costs due to inflation.”

Helbach dismissed the criticism, saying the capital budget would only slightly increase spending and borrowing over the previous two years.

“It’s a steady-as-you-go budget,” he said. “And if there’s any time in our history where we should be working on our infrastructure to create jobs, it’s now.”

The winners under Gov. Jim Doyle’s capital budget include:

  • UW-Milwaukee: The campus would receive approval for a six-year, $240 million expansion. Plans are being developed but could include new buildings to house the colleges of engineering, public health and School of Freshwater Sciences.
  • UW-Madison: The governor is recommending a $100 million building to house the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. The campus won a major Department of Energy grant to lead the center in partnership with other schools conducting research into biofuels. UW-Madison also would get approval for a medical research building, a new dormitory and conversion of a coal-fired power plant to run on biofuel.
  • The Bradley Center: The state would provide $5 million over 10 years to help with a backlog of maintenance projects at the Milwaukee stadium. The center would kick in $18 million for maintenance.
  • Public health: Doyle proposed building a $28.5 million public health and agricultural laboratory to replace outdated facilities in Madison. The lab would study bioterrorism, food-borne disease outbreaks and other safety threats.

The losers include:

  • UW-Eau Claire and UW-River Falls: Western Wisconsin lawmakers and some university officials complain the plan delays academic buildings on those two campuses for at least two years. Those projects would likely be ready for the 2011-13 budget.
  • The Department of Corrections. The governor recommended only about $7.5 million of the $250 million the agency requested to expand and renovate prisons. The governor held to his policy of not adding prison beds unless absolutely necessary.

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