UW Wisconsin branch campus funding remains stuck in limbo

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday called on Republicans who control the state’s budget committee to release previously approved state funds set aside to aid communities facing the closure of several Universities of Wisconsin branch campuses.

Evers’ request for the release of $20 million in state funds is the latest clash between the Democratic governor and GOP-controlled Legislature over money that has already been set aside but not yet released by the budget committee.

The UW system has announced plans to close UW-Platteville at Richland, its Washington County campus in West Bend and its Fond du Lac campus, while UW-Green Bay decided to end in-person classes at its Marinette campus. In March, the system announced plans to close UW-Milwaukee at Waukesha in spring 2025, making it the fifth two-year branch campus to close in the past 18 months due to “shifting demographics and budgetary constraints.”

The Legislature earlier this year passed Senate Bill 518, which received bipartisan support in both chambers, to set aside $20 million in state funds to provide up to $2 million in grants to communities affected by UW system branch campus closures.

In signing the bill in late March, Evers made partial vetoes to the bill, including eliminating a provision that would have required communities to provide a 20% local match in order to secure the state funding.

Grants are to be administered by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, but first the Joint Finance Committee must release the funds.

“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 a statement.

“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.”

The committee’s co-chairs, Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Evers and Republicans on the state budget committee have sparred over the release of state funds set aside for a variety of purposes, ranging from $125 million set aside in the budget to combat PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, to $15 million in funds to support health care access in western Wisconsin after the announced closure of two hospitals in the region.

Evers has demanded the release of those funds and criticized Republicans for holding back dollars that are desperately needed, while GOP lawmakers have blamed the governor for vetoing bills — either in part or in full — that sought to address those needs. Evers last week sued the state Legislature for the release of nearly $200 million in state funds.

The issue has also carried over to the campaign trail heading into the November election. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin, invigorated by the possibility of picking up legislative seats under new district boundaries signed into law earlier this year, has targeted Republican members of the budget committee for not releasing the funds.

Source: UW Wisconsin branch campus funding remains stuck in limbo

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