At their meeting today, the UW System Board of Regents approved their proposed capital and operating budgets for the 2021-23 biennial state budget. The proposed capital budget continues the work of investing in STEM education as well as renovating facilities across the UW System, and President Tommy Thompson’s proposed operating budget envisions bold investments that can drive the Wisconsin Idea into this decade.
As we plan for the future, we must make investments today in the universities across the System. I have been a vocal supporter of new buildings for science, technology, engineering, mathematics, the humanities and the arts, and I am pleased the Regents have continued advancing that agenda through some key projects at UW-River Falls and UW-La Crosse. Many of the science buildings that need to be replaced are more than 50 years old, and they have dilapidated mechanical systems that can create safety hazards. In addition, these antiquated buildings are not able to meet the technological demands required of today’s STEM classes.
The second phase of funding for our Science and Health Sciences Building was not included in the 2021-23 biennium, rather it was shifted back in the Regents’ broader six-year plan. I remain committed to using every cent of taxpayer dollars already allocated to us efficiently and effectively. This project means too much for this campus and this community to delay preparations for the new building. I’ll form our campus building committee this semester and set them to work designing the new building, which will have the laboratories our programs need and space for our students to research with experts through our collaboration with Mayo Clinic.
We’re on track to begin designing the new facility with an architect/engineering firm this fall, and I’ll continue working hard with the UW System and the State of Wisconsin to keep this crucial project moving. Our faculty, staff, business community, alumni, and bipartisan legislative delegation have seen the urgent need to replace Phillips Hall. They support the potential of our research with Mayo Clinic to take the Chippewa Valley’s existing health care research and innovation hub to the next level.
President Thompson’s proposed operating budget lays out a common-sense roadmap for investing in the UW System. The ten budget initiatives outlined here are big ideas that invest in the future of our state and the Wisconsin Idea. We need to expand access to education, support educators with loan forgiveness, and provide resources for our students’ mental health in these stressful times. We need to be smart about how our universities are funded, continue modernizing our technology and administrative practices, and eliminate regulatory burdens that detract from our main mission: supporting the faculty and staff who deliver transformative learning experiences for our students.
I look forward to supporting these budget initiatives in the capitol next year, and working hard on campus as we begin the design process for our new Science and Health Sciences Building.