Tony Evers seeks $2.4 billion for building projects — nearly half for UW campuses

MADISON – Gov. Tony Evers wants to spend $2.4 billion on building upgrades across Wisconsin — nearly half of which would be spent on University of Wisconsin System campuses. 

The plan would give $1 billion to the UW System for building projects, spend $163 million on a new state office building in Milwaukee, and create a $45 million juvenile correctional facility that would trigger the closure of the state’s long-troubled youth prison. 

In all, Evers is proposing projects in 31 of the state’s 72 counties. 

“The capital budget is an investment in the up-keep of our infrastructure for longevity and public safety and in the future we want to build for our state,” Evers said in a statement.

The Democratic governor’s proposed capital budget — which spends money on brick-and-mortar projects as opposed to programs — is about the same size as his first proposal after taking office, which was ultimately cut by Republicans by about $600 million.

The governor’s capital budget also begins construction of a 200,000-square-foot state office building planned for a largely vacant site on Milwaukee near west side. 

The bipartisan State of Wisconsin Building Commission unanimously approved the purchase of the development site, and the preparation of that site for future construction. But it’s unclear whether the GOP-controlled state Legislature will approve the project at its recommended cost. The budget-writing committee removed the project from Evers’ 2019-21 capital budget. 

The spending plan also would revive a stalled plan to close the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls, a youth prison north of Wausau that lawmakers voted in 2018 to close after years of assaults on staff and teen inmates. 

Evers wants to spend $45 million on a new juvenile facility in Milwaukee County for 32 teen offenders and another $70 million on a juvenile treatment center at Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison.

Contact Molly Beck at molly.beck@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MollyBeck.