State Rep. Warren Petryk, R-town of Pleasant Valley, has submitted a motion to the Legislature’s budget-writing committee to add the replacement of UW-Eau Claire’s 56-year-old Phillips Science Hall to the state budget.
The motion also has the support of local Republican Reps. Jesse James of Altoona, Treig Pronschinske of Mondovi, Romaine Quinn of Barron and Rob Summerfield of Bloomer, according to a joint news release sent Wednesday.
Regional Democratic legislators and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers also have been vocal supporters of the proposed $256 million UW-Eau Claire building project to which Mayo Clinic Health System has committed $13.7 million. Sen. Jeff Smith, D-town of Brunswick, and Rep. Jodi Emerson, D-Eau Claire, announced Wednesday they sent a letter of support for the project to Joint Finance Committee members after no Republicans signed on to the letter circulated to area legislators involved in UW-Eau Claire planning meetings.
Funding for state building projects remains up in the air after all 82 proposed projects in Evers’ capital budget were rejected in March by Republicans on the State Building Commission who said they objected to the high price tag and level of borrowing needed to fund them all.
“Phillips Hall is an outdated building which is in dire need for replacement, and that was the case even back when I was a student at UW-Eau Claire in the 1970’s,” Petryk said in the release. “The replacement of this building would further strengthen UW-EC’s reputation for teaching excellence and continue a knowledge boom in our area by allowing students to work in a state-of-the-art facility while allowing western Wisconsin to continue being a national leader in undergraduate research.”
Petryk submitted the motion last week to his Assembly Republican committee members asking them to insert the Phillips Hall project into the budget. The Joint Finance Committee is currently debating Evers’ proposed budget. Once the committee completes its work, the budget will go before the Assembly and Senate for votes by the full Legislature before being sent to the governor.
“Investments on our UW campuses should improve outcomes, create opportunity, encourage collaboration with the private sector, and make financial sense,” Quinn said in a statement.
“The Phillips Hall project accomplishes all of this criteria while also opening the door to untold advancements with the Mayo partnership. Wisconsin would be wise to make this investment now.”
Pronschinske pointed out that the project, which gained the support of the UW System Board of Regents in August, would benefit surrounding communities as well as Eau Claire.
“I can’t thank our local and regional legislators enough for their bipartisan support to include the science and health sciences building in the capital budget,” UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt said. “This important investment in northwest Wisconsin will create new opportunities for UW-Eau Claire students, faculty and staff, advance our research partnership with Mayo Clinic, and benefit businesses in the greater Chippewa Valley.”
In a joint statement, Smith and Emerson said, “We appreciate Chancellor Schmidt and UW-Eau Claire’s effort to orchestrate bipartisan support for this project. It’s a shame Representatives Petryk, James, Pronschinske, Quinn and Summerfield are more interested in playing politics with UW-Eau Claire’s project than working together. We remain hopeful that Joint Finance Committee members can look past the politics and see the merits of this project.”