At first blush, the 4-4 party line deadlock by the Wisconsin Building Commission over Democratic Gov. Tony Evers proposed capital budget to fund building needs across the state seemed dismaying.
News reports called the GOP-led rejection of Evers $2.5 billion proposal “unprecedented” for rejecting “a host of typically bipartisan feel-good initiatives before the commission.” That included such things as funding a University of Wisconsin cancer research center, improving state park campgrounds, upgrading veterans homes and cemeteries, funding a new Wisconsin state history museum and renovating UW’s Camp Randall Stadium and the Kohl Center.
Evers and Democrats said the deadlock could put at risk the health and safety of public workers in dilapidated buildings, some of which are 45 to 70 years old.
There may be some truth to that.
State GOP leaders countered that Evers proposal was “unrealistic and unsustainable” and noted it was three times as large as former Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s last capital budget request.
There is some truth to that as well.
So now that Evers and GOP leaders have staked out their political positions it’s time to get down to the hard task of setting priorities and decide which state building projects need to stay on the list – and which ones can move down and be deferred or pared back.
There is a bit of a Christmas-tree look to Evers’ proposal – a lot of ornaments and baubles – and yes, they would probably be nice, but the job of the governor and GOP-controlled Legislature is to determine just what kind of a tree Wisconsin can afford and how long state taxpayers will be paying for it.
We are particularly concerned by the fact that proposed building plan would be heavily based on increased borrowing—$2 billion, compared to $100 million under Walker’s last budget. That raises red flags for a state that usually likes to pay as we go.
At the same time, we are encouraged by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ words that most of Evers’ capital budget requests could be worthy of funding. “There’s a lot of worthwhile projects in here,” said Vos, R-Rochester.
That seems like a good place to start and the deadlock in the building commission vote may just be a bump in the road. We would hope — and expect — the governor and the Legislature to move past the letters R for Republican and D for Democrat and instead focus on two C’s – compromise and consensus — and build a solid, affordable capital budget that best serves the needs of Wisconsin.