After months of updates, I am excited to share that Governor Tony Evers has signed the 2019-21 Wisconsin state budget. Thanks to the efforts of our University Relations team, area business and community leaders, and our alumni across the state, elected officials heard the need for investment in this campus and in our university system. Because of our area legislators’ work throughout the legislative process, and Governor Evers’ unwavering support for replacing Phillips Hall, I can report that the final budget reflects some of this institution’s highest priorities.
There are a number of key provisions in this budget that meet great needs on our campus and will have a positive impact on our faculty, staff and students. The 2019-21 state operating budget includes a 2% pay plan each year of the biennium for UW System employees, with raises going into effect January of 2020 and 2021. Our hardworking employees are this institution’s greatest asset, and I’m pleased that the governor and elected state officials have allowed us to continue investing in our precious human resources. This budget also provides for necessary infrastructural updates to the campus, including improvements for our steam line and air conditioning utilities, as well as renovation monies for high-use areas of the Haas Fine Arts Center.
Just as exciting, the capital budget sets UW-Eau Claire up to maintain our tradition of excellence by providing $109 million for phase one of a new Science and Health Sciences Building to replace Phillips Hall, plus $1 million to plan the building’s second phase concomitantly with the first. Even as our stellar STEM and health sciences faculty and students conduct leading-edge research or earn global recognition, they are forced to deal with unexpected setbacks caused by Phillips Hall’s deteriorating state. This investment from the state will allow us to design a unified, flexible building that can meet the evolving needs of Blugold students and researchers for decades to come.
A new Science and Health Sciences Building will also allow our master collaborative research agreement with Mayo Clinic Health System to flourish. Together, and with this investment from the state of Wisconsin, UW-Eau Claire and Mayo Clinic Health System are poised to tackle pressing research questions and needs for innovation in rural healthcare. Check out this video I tweeted after the legislature passed their version of the budget to see why local Mayo leadership and I are so excited and humbled by this opportunity.
Of course, even as the budget process comes to a close, our work on the Science and Health Sciences Building is only just beginning. Phillips Hall’s days are numbered, and I look forward to beginning the planning and design process for this new building as soon as possible.
With that, enjoy your Fourth of July holiday!