Yesterday, the Wisconsin State Building Commission advanced the governor’s proposed 2019-21 capital budget without a recommendation to the Joint Committee on Finance (also known as the Joint Finance Committee, or JFC). While this is unusual, given the fact Wisconsin has divided government for the first time in a decade, it was not entirely unexpected.
What does this mean for UW-Eau Claire’s proposed Science and Health Sciences Building project? To be clear, our project was not removed from the capital budget and legislative leaders have confirmed to UW System that a capital budget will be advanced this biennium. So, as the legislative process proceeds, we will continue to work with the business and economic development community, our alumni and friends to advocate for the project.
The JFC will now work to create the Legislature’s version of the capital budget. From there, the JFC’s budget will be considered by both the State Assembly and Senate before Governor Evers makes any line-item vetoes and approves the final version in August.
See my previous blog post for more information about how this process usually proceeds.
This project has bipartisan support from our regional legislative delegation, and both Republican and Democratic legislators who have toured Phillips Science Hall recognize that it is in failing condition and needs to be replaced. We have had staff in Madison this week talking with members of the building commission, JFC members and our regional delegation. We have also been working closely with the Governor’s Office, and Governor Evers has endorsed the project both during an announcement here on campus March 7 and again yesterday at the State Building Commission meeting.
Replacing Phillips Hall with a Science and Health Sciences Building is not a new idea. Hundreds of community members, faculty, staff and students participated in UW-Eau Claire’s master-planning process beginning in the summer of 2009, and the UW System Board of Regents affirmed our visionary facilities master plan in December of 2011. When I came to campus in 2013, the guiding document that resulted from this robust engagement process had already begun to transform the face of our campus and community. The Science and Health Sciences Building project is the next step in the long process of preparing our university for its second century of service to Wisconsin.
I’m eager to keep sharing our story with legislators on the Joint Finance Committee so we can build on our areas of strength and continue meeting the evolving needs our state. Stay tuned.