Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers gives his annual State of the State address Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, in Madison, WI. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Evers asks Republicans to release $20 million for redevelopment of shuttered UW campuses, including UW-Richland

A grant program authorized by the governor in March is intended to allocate up to $2 million per community to repurpose unused buildings.

May 24, 2024

By Will Fritz – This story originally appeared in the Wisconsin Independent

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is calling on the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee of the Wisconsin State Legislature to release $20 million to support communities amid the closure of University of Wisconsin branch campuses.

The funds are intended to support redevelopment of shuttered UW campus sites as part of a redevelopment grant program, according to a press release shared by Evers’ office. 

In October 2023, the UW system announced plans to close UW-Platteville Richland, and to end in-person instruction at UW-Milwaukee at Washington County and UW Oshkosh, Fond du Lac campus. The university system said at the time that while four-year campuses had been seeing rising enrollment, two-year campuses — including those affected by the October decision — were seeing the opposite.

2023 Wisconsin Act 250, signed by Evers in March, directed the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to create a grant program to help communities repurpose closed campuses. The program was set up to award up to $2 million to municipalities to assist with associated costs.

The WEDC joined Evers in making the request that the funding be released.

“Years of lack of meaningful investments in our UW System has caused recent faculty layoffs and campus closures that are adversely affecting our students, faculty and staff and their families, local communities, and our entire state—these are challenges that we must work to address, and quickly, to prevent further layoffs and closures. This funding is critically important in the meantime to help communities like Richland Center, Washington County, Fond du Lac, and Marinette find new uses for the infrastructure and existing buildings to support local communities and economies,” Evers said in the press release. “I look forward to the Joint Finance Committee releasing these funds without delay so we can get them into the hands of the folks who need them and revitalize these campus sites as soon as possible.”

In signing the law, Evers used his partial veto power to remove some requirements that Republicans had included in the bill, including requirements that municipalities make a 20% match to receive funding and that they not use the funds to repurpose any buildings that will be used for educational purposes in the future.

According to the governor’s office, Evers’ partial veto “removed restrictive statutory requirements to allow greater flexibility for WEDC to award grants to counties more efficiently and reduce financial burdens on the local communities requesting the funds.”

Evers and the Republican-controlled Legislature have long been at odds over education funding. In April, the Legislature sued Evers over a partial veto that made it easier to allocate $50 million for new literacy programs under Wisconsin Act 100 without going through the Joint Finance Committee. Evers filed a countersuit in May.

In February, the Wisconsin Supreme Court took up a lawsuit filed by Evers against Republican legislators who blocked pay raises for University of Wisconsin employees.

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