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Friday, June 14, 2024
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Evers approves $740 million for engineering building, other UW projects

Gov. Tony Evers approved $740 million in new building projects for University of Wisconsin schools Wednesday, including $197 million for a new engineering building at UW-Madison. 

The bill passed as part of a deal between the Republican-controlled state Legislature and the UW Board of Regents to cap diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) positions for three years and restructure one-third of positions in exchange for pay raises and money for building projects.

Evers, a longtime advocate for the engineering building, applauded the bill in a press release Wednesday despite what he called “unnecessary delays largely driven by partisan politics.”

“Investing in Wisconsin’s world-class higher education institutions, including our UW System, is critical for doing what’s best for our kids and helping us recruit, train, and retain talented students to help address the workforce challenges that have plagued our state for generations,” Evers said.

UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin said in a statement Wednesday she appreciates Evers and the Legislature for approving the new building and looks forward to continued cooperation between the UW Board of Regents and legislative leaders. 

“These bipartisan actions strengthen our flagship university and the entire system while also deepening our partnership with the state in critical areas such as innovation, workforce and economic development across Wisconsin,” Mnookin said. 

In total, the engineering building will cost $347 million, with the remaining balance planned to come from private donations raised by UW-Madison.

Additionally, the deal allocates $45 million toward demolishing buildings on UW System campuses and approximately $80 million for renovations at Humphrey, Kronshage and Jorns residence halls at UW-Madison.  

Evers told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he felt the UW Board of Regents were put in a difficult position with the deal, given repeated Republican demands to cut DEI programs in exchange for state funds. 

The engineering building was the UW System’s highest-ranked budget priority, and UW leaders warned in November that donors might retract their pledges if lawmakers did not approve state funds.  

“It’s done, they got their raises, they got the buildings,” Evers told reporters Tuesday.  

Evers opposed past Republican attempts to cut DEI programs. In October, he attempted to sue Republican leaders for withholding UW System pay raises and blocking environmental programs in committees.

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“Republican legislators are unconstitutionally obstructing basic functions of government — actions that have not only aimed to prevent state government from efficiently and effectively serving the people of our state but are now actively harming tens of thousands of Wisconsinites every day across our state,” Evers said in December.  

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said in December the deal was the first step in eliminating DEI programs throughout state agencies. 

Construction on the 395,000-square-foot engineering building is slated to begin in May 2026.

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