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Wisconsin CEOs Urge Republicans to Fund UW-Madison Engineering Building Project PDF Print E-mail
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Written by GOV Press Wisconsin   
Monday, 06 November 2023 12:27

tech-jobsGovernor's special session comprehensive workforce plan already before the Legislature would invest nearly $200 million into engineering building project.


MADISON — Yesterday, in an advertisement that ran in the Wisconsin State Journal and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, respectively, 42 CEOs from some of the state’s leading employers penned a letter to the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Legislature urging them to pass funding for the engineering building expansion project at the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison’s College of Engineering. Letter signatories included American Family Insurance, Johnson Controls, Rockwell Automation, and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), among several others. 

A plan to invest nearly $200 million to fund UW-Madison's engineering building project is already before the Legislature and available for Republicans to take immediate legislative action—in a special session of the Legislature called by the governor in August, Gov. Evers included the engineering building project in his comprehensive workforce plan to address the state’s generational workforce challenges and invest in higher education. Republicans have spent the interceding months delaying action on the plan and refusing to meaningfully consider the governor’s proposal as drafted. It is not the first time legislative Republicans have refused or delayed support for the project. Gov. Evers previously proposed funding for the UW-Madison engineering building project in his 2023-25 Capital Budget recommendations as part of the 2023-25 biennial budget process, but Republicans rejected enumerating the project. 

uw-mdsn-bascom-hill“Our UW System is one of our state’s greatest assets, not only in terms of inspiring and educating future leaders and supporting our local workers and communities but in bolstering our workforce and our economy statewide. We have to make sure that these institutions have the means to deliver world-class curriculum, programming, and support for our students,” said Gov. Evers. “It’s clear to me—and clearly many of our state’s largest employers agree—that if we want to educate, retain, and recruit talented workers, we have to invest in the UW System and higher education statewide, and this new, state-of-the-art building is a critical part of that effort. Republicans in the Legislature must work swiftly to take up my comprehensive workforce plan to invest in this critical project and provide the resources and support our higher education systems need to bolster our state’s workforce and economy.”

The governor’s comprehensive workforce plan also includes an additional more than $100 million investment in the state’s higher education institutions, including an additional more than $40 million to support the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and an additional $66.4 million for the UW System to help recruit, train, and retain talent in an effort to bolster the state’s workforce. Earlier this year, as part of the biennial budget process, Republicans again failed to approve the governor’s budget proposal that would have invested more than $66 million for the UW System and more than $65 million for the WTCS. 

Meanwhile, multiple UW campuses have reported serious structural deficits, requiring employee furloughs, layoffs, and budget cuts and restructuring. UW-Oshkosh recently announced that approximately 200 employees’ jobs are expected to end. UW-Green Bay announced that nine staff members will be laid off, affecting library services at their Manitowoc, Marinette, and Sheboygan campuses and a program aimed at helping high schoolers earn college credits. At UW-Platteville, the university announced it will be eliminating 111 positions to help address its deficit. 

tony-evers-2023In August, the governor called the Wisconsin State Legislature into a special session on September 20 to address the state’s workforce challenges by investing in affordable, accessible child care and preventing the industry’s collapse, expanding paid family and medical leave for working families, bolstering high-need workforce sectors, including the state’s education and healthcare workforces, and providing substantial support for the state’s higher education institutions to help recruit, train, and retain workers, including this critical investment in the engineering building project. Republican lawmakers gaveled into the special session, but more than 45 days later, they have still not yet taken meaningful action on the governor’s plan as proposed. 

According to UW-Madison, the new building will provide the space and investment needed to graduate approximately 1,000 more engineering students each year. UW-Madison has committed to raising $150 million for this project, and more than $100 million has already been pledged from donors, which is contingent on state support for the project. Without the state’s prompt support, the cost could increase to approximately $400 million in the next biennium. 

“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,” wrote the employers. “The UW-Madison College of Engineering has a significant impact on the state and its workforce. These engineering graduates are vital to the state’s economic development needs, but we need more of them to meet the increasing demand from our companies.”

The governor’s call to invest in and support higher education statewide comes as Joint Committee on Employment Relations, chaired by Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate President Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), are refusing to release already-approved pay increases for UW System employees, denying all UW employees of a four percent raise in 2023 and a two percent raise in 2024—raises the Legislature already approved as part of the most recent biennial budget. Gov. Evers last week announced he is suing Republicans in the Legislature for unconstitutionally obstructing basic government functions.

 
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