Local Democratic Legislators Demand Action on UW-EC Phillips Science Hall

MADISON – Today, Senator Jeff Smith (D-Brunswick), Representative Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire) and Representative Jill Billings (D-La Crosse) toured the UW-Eau Claire Phillips Science Hall and participated in a roundtable discussion with UW-EC students and faculty. Rep. Billings, chair of the Building Commission’s higher education subcommittee, joined Sen. Smith and Rep. Emerson to survey the outdated building and learn about the need for critical facility improvements directly from UW-EC students and faculty.

Today’s visit was an opportunity for Democrats to learn more about the project so they can educate Republicans following the failed attempt to include all eighty-two projects from Governor Tony Evers’ capital budget requests. As a result of the inaction, none of the projects were recommended to the state’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) for their consideration.

The projects proposed by Governor Evers were estimated to create over 40,000 jobs and $4.5 billion in economic activity. Not only were these investments going toward higher education buildings, other projects would have improved veteran’s homes, mental health centers and additional public facilities throughout Wisconsin. Local legislators released the following statements in response to the State Building Commission decision and today’s tour.

Senator Smith shared the statement below:

“I’m disappointed that the Republican members of the State Building Commission failed to recommend necessary infrastructure investments for Phillips Science Hall. Our state’s future depends on every student’s ability to access a strong education, including the proper resources to graduate and feel prepared to enter the workforce.

“During the tour and conversation with UW-EC students and faculty, it was clear that this building is not moving Wisconsin forward and we are falling behind other states. Although we are at an all-time political divide, I look forward to bringing my Republican colleagues back to the table to discuss the importance of this project for the Chippewa Valley Region.”

Representative Emerson shared the following statement:

“I have had the opportunity to tour Philips Hall on multiple occasions with my Democratic Colleagues over the past few months. Every single time the picture is crystal clear, UW Eau Claire needs this new facility in order to continue to provide a high quality education and remain competitive in the Sciences. Investment in this building is an investment in Northwestern Wisconsin for years to come. My Republican colleagues need to follow through on their promises to the people of Wisconsin to make this happen. UW Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley certainly need and deserve this building.”

Rep. Jill Billings, chair of the State Building Commission’s Higher Education Subcommittee, has made it a priority to tour UW-System schools and see firsthand the needs of each campus. To date she has visited six campuses, including a previous stop on Thursday to UW-River Falls. Rep. Billings shared the following statement:

“My visit to UW-Eau Claire today is about the needs on this campus and all UW-System campuses. After years of deferred maintenance and delayed projects, the infrastructure needs on our campuses are substantial. As we saw on our tour today, many buildings on UW-System campuses were built in the 1950’s or 1960’s and no longer support the type of education environment needed in the 21st century. The buildings’ mechanical systems and structures have functioned well beyond their reasonable lifespan. Governor Evers’ capital budget made strategic investments in our universities so that they can continue to educate the next generation and be economic engines for local communities.”

In the following weeks, the JFC will vote line-by-line in the budget. Toward the end of the committee process, the JFC will approve or deny the capital budget requests by the Governor.

If individuals are interested in sharing their opinion with the JFC regarding the Governor’s capital budget and Phillips Science Hall, they can call the JFC Co-Chairs, Senator Alberta Darling at (608)266-5830 or Representative John Nygren at (608)266-2343.