Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed capital budget seeks approval for the largest amount of spending seen in at least a decade, calling for the state to set aside $2.5 billion for public construction and maintenance projects throughout Wisconsin.
Even though Evers’ capital budget proposal falls short of the $3.4 billion in spending that state agencies had requested, it would still be significantly higher than recent spending plans approved under his Republican predecessor, Scott Walker. For the current biennial budget, lawmakers approved about $1 billion for building projects and about $848 million was spent on capital projects in the state’s 2015-2017 budget period.
Walker, in his two last biennial budgets — those for 2015-2017 and 2017-2019 — made it a point to rein in agencies’ spending requests, approving just over a third of the projects sought in those years.
Evers’ proposed budget would lead to a sizable increase in spending on University of Wisconsin System projects, taking the amount used for that purpose from $323 million in the current biennial budget to more than $1 billion over the next two years. Even so, that’s a little less than half of what the UW System had requested.
To pay for the UW projects, Evers would rely on more than $900 million worth of new borrowing. The budget would also spend more than two-and-a-half times more on state agency building projects and more than double spending on maintenance.
Some of the proposals in the capital budget call for:
- $70 million in state borrowing to support the construction of a $100 million overhaul of the Wisconsin History Museum in Madison. The museum has raised $30 million in donations for the building. The project has been on indefinite hiatus after money for the 200,000-square-foot overhaul was axed four years ago from the state’s 2011-2013 budget
- $98.5 million worth of borrowing for a new state office building in Milwaukee. The biennial budget authorized $4 million for land acquisition and the state began working to identify a site for the building in early 2018. The new building would house a number of state agencies, including the Departments of Administration, Children and Families, Revenue, Workforce Development and the Governor’s Milwaukee office, among others
- $90 million in new borrowing for three juvenile prisons, which would replace the state’s youth prison near Irma. The state previously approved $25 million in borrowing for that project
- $109 million for a $256 million science building at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
- $15 million for a $100 million cancer-research center at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee
- $90 million for a $128 million renovation and expansion of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s veterinary medicine center
The capital budget next heads to the State Building Commission, which will meet to consider the request on March 20. The building commission’s recommendations will be considered by the Joint Finance Committee on April 2.Follow @natebeck9