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$3.8 billion infrastructure investment proposals halted in State Building Commission meeting

Four Republican lawmakers in the State Building Commission on Thursday voted “no,” to Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide project investment proposals for state agencies and other entities. Photo courtesy of WisconsinEye.

Gov. Tony Evers’ proposals on Thursday for funding dozens of agency projects across Wisconsin halted when Republican legislators voted to decline $3.8 billion in infrastructure investments. Included in the governor’s plans were million- and billion-dollar proposals for projects such as a Type 1 juvenile correctional facility in Milwaukee and capital improvements for the University of Wisconsin System.

Each motion in the session failed with a 4-4 vote, with four Republican lawmakers all voting “No,” to the Democratic governor’s proposals in the full State Building Commission (SBC) meeting. The proposals were for state agency requests, non-state agency requests, $1.76 billion for UW-System projects and a proposal to increase the SBC’s threshold for projects.

After the rejection, the budget proposals will go to the Republican-held Joint Finance Committee.

Evers said his Republican colleagues would rather “play politics” instead of talking about how projects would serve state residents. The governor said he would still push for infrastructure projects.

“Our capital budget addressed critical infrastructure needs across our state in a way that kept borrowing low, saved the taxpayer’s money in the long run, and created critical local jobs and economic development. While Republican leaders claim to support these goals, their action today shows that they would simply rather play politics than have a meaningful discussion about how these projects would serve the needs of the folks they represent. Despite today’s unfortunate outcome, we will continue to fight for these projects as we work to invest in and build 21st century infrastructure in communities across our state,” Gov. Evers said in a statement.

Legislators on the other side of the aisle said Thursday’s votes would give them a chance for a “deeper dive” into recommendations.

“The votes we took today were procedural. The capital budget recommendations will be moved on to the Joint Committee on Finance for full consideration in the 2023-25 biennial budget as was done in two previous biennial budgets,” Rep. Robert Wittke (R – Racine) said in a statement.

“We will continue to work through each capital budget item in depth, make site visits as time allows and have discussions with stakeholders during the coming weeks. The procedural votes of today afford us a deeper dive into each recommendation,” Wittke added.

SBC recommendations included money for a Type 1 juvenile facility in Milwaukee to replace the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake schools in Irma, Wis., the governor’s office said. Included in proposals for the Department of Corrections were a new Type 1 facility in DOC-owned property in Oregon, Wis., expansion of the Grow Academy in Oregon and a study and plan for a third Type 1 facility in the Northeastern part of the state, officials added.

The Lincoln Hills juvenile correctional center in Irma, Wis. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections wants to build a Type 1 facility in Milwaukee to replace the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake schools. (Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, File)/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)

The DOC requested nearly $30 million this month to help build a correctional facility for youths northwest of 76th Street and Good Hope Road. The additional funds were needed to address inflation and increasing labor costs, DOC officials said. The building is meant to replace the two schools in Irma after years of abuse and misconduct reports.

A systemwide proposal for state funding to the UW-System spanned universities across the state, including La Crosse, Whitewater, Oshkosh, Milwaukee and Madison. Budget proposals included a replacement for the Engineering Building at UW – Madison, a science and health building for UW – Eau Claire and a proposed replacement for the Camp Randall Sports Center.

The SBC vote mirrored party line votes during the 2019-21 Capital Budget and the 2021-23 Capital Budget, making it a third time Republican commission members voted to budget proposals within the State Building Program, the governor’s office said.

About Ethan Duran

Ethan Duran is the construction and development reporter at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (414) 551-7505 or [email protected]

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