Bascom Hall, University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Ron Cogswell | used by permission of the photographer)
The University of Wisconsin-Madison kicked efforts to persuade the Legislature to come up with nearly $200 million for a new engineering building into higher gear Monday.
The UW announced a campaign including digital and newspaper advertising, social media and a video spot to reverse the Republican legislative majority’s decision in June against funding the building in the state’s 2023-25 capital budget. The campaign “amplifies the messages of Wisconsin’s businesses about the need for more engineers and calls on policymakers to take action to move the project forward,” a UW announcement stated.
The UW dropped the names of some of the state’s biggest companies who are among “top employers [who] are calling for legislative action,” according to the university announcement. Employers involved in the campaign include Johnson Controls, Kohler, Epic, American Family Insurance, Rockwell Automation and Plexus. The Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce have also signed on, the university said.
“As Wisconsin employers, we are deeply disappointed by the decision of the Joint Finance Committee to not include the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering expansion in the 2023-25 capital budget,” a letter signed by 42 executives and published in the Wisconsin State Journal on Sunday states.
“Of the $347 million total project cost, UW-Madison has committed to raising $150 million from private gifts and grants,” the letter states, adding that $100 million has already been pledged, “contingent on state support of the project this session.”
Delaying the project to the 2025-27 budget would increase its cost to $400 million, the letter adds, “with no guarantee that donor funds will still be available.”
Gov. Tony Evers included $197 million for the new engineering building in a special session bill he proposed in August. The $1.4 billion bill, focused heavily on child care support and several other workforce related initiatives, went before the Legislature in hearings starting in September.
Evers issued a statement Monday highlighting the UW campaign and his own inclusion of the engineering building in his special session initiative. “Republicans have spent the interceding months delaying action on the plan and refusing to meaningfully consider the governor’s proposal as drafted,” it stated.
While the engineering building line item appeared to draw Republicans’ interest at a Senate hearing on the Evers special session bill, it was left out when Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu rewrote Evers’ bill. The Oostburg Republican inserted a $2 billion tax cut in place of the original legislation’s proposals.
Evers has vowed to veto the rewrite, which passed the Senate with only Republican votes.
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