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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The engineering campus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is pictured in an aerial view during an autumn sunset on Oct. 5, 2011. Clockwise from bottom right is the Engineering Centers Building, Mechanical Engineering Building, Material Science and Engineering Building, Engineering Hall and Engineering Research Building. In the background is Camp Randall Stadium. The photograph was made from a helicopter looking south. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

New UW-Madison engineering building, indoor sports complex in Evers’ capital budget proposal

Of the $3.8 billion of statewide recommended spending, nearly half is allocated to UW System campuses.

Gov. Tony Evers released his nearly $3.8 billion 2023-25 capital budget proposal Tuesday, suggesting nearly $1.8 billion for improvement projects across University of Wisconsin System campuses.

If passed, Evers’ budget proposal would fulfill about 72% of the UW System’s $2.4 billion request, according to figures in the budget text.

The largest sum of money is allocated for a new UW-Madison College of Engineering building. Evers’ capital budget included the full $347.3 million to replace the engineering facility on 1410 Engineering Drive with a new 340,000 square-foot building, estimated to be completed in 2028.

“We thank Governor Evers for prioritizing this critical project,” UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin said in a statement Tuesday. “I look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers to share the tremendous value of an engineering facility.”

Evers proposed another  $39.7 million to renovate UW-Madison’s Music Hall. The improvements come as the La Follette School of Public Affairs discusses plans to move into the facility. The renovations, which would provide more open space within the building, are expected to be complete in 2027.

Other UW-Madison projects fully funded in the proposed capital budget include $169.1 million to move the Art Department out of the Mosse Humanities Building, $79.2 million for renovations and additions to Kronshage, Jorns and Humphrey Residence Halls and $285.2 million to replace the Camp Randall Sports Center, commonly referred to as “The Shell.”

“We appreciate that the governor recognizes the importance of investing in the infrastructure of our universities,” UW System President Jay Rothman said in a tweet Tuesday. “Our students expect modern classrooms that help drive success and research innovation.”

Evers’ capital budget includes about $2 million for projects through other state agencies. His proposal allocates $50 million for renovations to the State Capitol and funding towards the eventual closure of Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile facilities, which have faced allegations of staff abuse against detained youth, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

Through his Clean Energy Plan, Evers proposed $25 million to invest in Wisconsin’s renewable energy capabilities. He also recommended a $225 million allocation to health service facilities, including utilities, patient care and support services.

“Our budget is all about investing in the future of our people, our communities and our state to bolster our workforce, prepare our state and our economy for the future and maintain our economic momentum by building our economy from the ground up,” Evers said in a statement Tuesday.

Proposed funding for the UW System will not come out of tax-supported borrowing, according to the governor’s office. Instead, most projects would draw finances from Wisconsin’s current $7.1 billion surplus, the largest in state history.

“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 press release Tuesday.

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The Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin estimated that every dollar spent on construction generates about $1.84 of economic activity in the state. From these statistics, Evers estimated his capital budget would generate $6.8 billion in economic activity and 45,000 jobs. 

Evers’ capital budget now moves to the State Building Commission, which will consider the proposal on March 23. The capital budget will then proceed to the Republican-controlled Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee and be voted on this coming spring. Republicans previously said they would cut spending from Evers’ budget proposal.

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