Wisconsin Capital

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers wants to spend $2.4 billion on Wisconsin building projects over the next two years, with nearly a half of that going toward projects across the University of Wisconsin System, $163 million for a new state office building in Milwaukee and plans to move the state historical society museum to a new location near the Capitol.

Evers released his capital budget proposal on Monday. The state building commission is slated to vote on it next month, which would then send the plan to the Legislature’s budget committee, which will then decide what to fund.

Of the nearly $2.4 billion proposed for projects across 31 counties, $1 billion will be for the UW System. That mirrors his capital budget proposal from two years ago, when roughly $1 billion of the $2.5 billion was for projects on UW campuses. The Republican-controlled Legislature ultimately approved $1.9 billion in building projects.

Evers said the budget proposal this year prioritizes funding for corrections and health services facilities, state parks and forests, upgrades at veterans homes and improvements at veterans cemeteries. It would pay for a new $46 million juvenile prison in Milwaukee County to house 32 young offenders as part of a plan to close the Lincoln Hills-Copper Lake juvenile prisons north of Wausau.

The budget proposal also includes funding for a new $163 million state office building and parking garage in Milwaukee, replacing the existing office building there at a new location and consolidating offices. It also includes $4 million to begin preliminary design work for redevelopment of a block near the Capitol in Madison for a new state office building and home for the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum.

The project would involve tearing down the existing 50-year-old state office building on the site. The office currently only houses the Department of Workforce Development after the Department of Children and Families recently moved to a more modern state office building in Madison.

In his budget, Evers said the four-story building known as GEF1 has outlived its life expectancy with critical mechanical systems including plumbing and electrical starting to fail and in need of replacement. The current building also does not have a fire sprinkler system.

The proposed redevelopment project would provide a new home for the historical society museum, a popular stop for school field trips that is currently located where State Street dead ends into the Capitol. The Legislature previously approved $100 million for a new museum at the current location, but Evers is calling for relocating it along with the newly proposed office building a few blocks away.

Evers’ proposal would pay for beginning planning for such a project, but funding to actually construct it would have to come later. A new museum to replace the current one has been discussed for decades.