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Republicans reject all of Gov. Evers capital budget recommendations, including new UWEC science hall

Madison (WQOW) — Republican lawmakers on the Wisconsin Building Commission rejected all of Gov. Tony Evers capital budget recommendations on Wednesday.

Some of those proposals rejected included funding for a cancer research center, a new veterans nursing home, funding for youth prisons and upgrades to University of Wisconsin System campuses.

As News 18 reported earlier this month, Gov. Evers announced he was including $109 million in the capital budget to replace Phillips Hall at UW-Eau Claire. UW-Eau Claire Assistant Chancellor for Facilities and University Relations Mike Rindo had said it costs more than $530,000 to operate per year, and they needed the state aid to build a new science hall.

Now, the future of that project is in doubt.

“When you look at the overall capital budget, we believe we’ve made a strong case along with our partnership with Mayo Clinic that this would be a building that is not only necessary and needed but something that could lead to additional economic development and talent development for this region of Wisconsin,” said Mike Rindo with UW-Eau Claire.

The building commission is compiled of Republican and Democratic lawmakers and is chaired by Gov. Evers.

Republican leadership sent Evers a letter before the meeting Wednesday afternoon calling his proposed $2 billion in borrowing “unrealistic and unsustainable.” They asked Evers to work with them to pass a more sustainable plan.

His capital budget recommended 82 building projects, all members voted along party lines.

“Never before members of the commission failed to recommend a capital budget to the legislature the commission has never abandoned our responsibility and duty,” said Sen. Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville).

Republican members argue it’s just too expensive and the amount of borrowing is alarming.

“Our caucus has concerns with the level of bonding, if you want to talk about history this is the largest capital budget in history,” said Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam).

Evers called the move by Republicans a disappointment, adding it’s rare for lawmakers on the commission to reject moving forward a capital budget.

In a statement, Evers wrote: “Disappointed is an understatement. Republicans on the Commission voted to support this Capital Budget a day ago—they were for it before they were against it. This was about playing politics, plain and simple, not doing what’s best for the people of our state. Republicans would rather have us sit here in gridlock than do the jobs we were sent here to do, and that’s a shame.”

The building commission is required to make recommendations and send them over to the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee. But now, the committee might have to start from scratch. That means it is possible that some projects could be delayed and others stalled from moving forward.

Stephen Kelley

Stephen Kelley joined the News 18 team in August 2006. He is currently the Executive Producer and an Evening Anchor.

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