Milwaukee State Office Building, MPM project funding do not receive State Building Commission endorsement

Both projects were recommended in Evers' capital budget plan

Credit: Google
Site of proposed Milwaukee State Office Building. Credit: Google

Last updated on March 19th, 2021 at 10:59 am

It was a familiar refrain at today’s State Building Commission meeting: “Motion fails with a 4-4 vote.”

Two big projects with major implications for the city of Milwaukee — a new $164 million state office building and a $40 million contribution to a new Milwaukee Public Museum facility — failed to receive commission endorsements.

Motions recommending their inclusion in the 2021-2023 capital budget failed on a tie vote, with Democrats and a citizen commission member voting in favor, and Republicans voting against. The votes mirrored virtually all other items presented yesterday afternoon, when the commission went over each item in Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed capital budget.

The state has already selected and acquired the site of the future office building. It is to be built southwest of 27th Street and Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee’s Near West Side.

Those in support of the project note the existing downtown state office building’s decrepit condition. They also point out the project has been proposed the last three budget cycles, reaching back to former Gov. Scott Walker. Each new proposal has gotten larger and more expensive.

“If we defer it again, it’s just going to cost more in the next budget,” Naomi De Mers, administrator of the Wisconsin Department of Administration’s division of facilities development, said during the meeting.

Sen. Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville) listed the various businesses and groups in the Near West Side that support the project. They include developer Rick Wiegand, Advocate Aurora, Harley-Davidson, Marquette University and Molson Coors.

Those who voted against the proposal did not directly address it. However, earlier in the meeting Rep. Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) noted that the capital budget is too large and that the projects are being proposed in the middle of a pandemic.

The future of the state’s office facility needs is in questions due to potential changes in work situations, he said. Many employees are currently not working in an office.

Before the Milwaukee Public Museum project vote, Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan noted the museum is in danger of losing its accreditation due to the conditions of its existing building.

“There are real-time implications of the committee’s actions and of the state’s actions moving forward,” he said.

The tie votes mean the proposals will be sent to the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee without recommendation. The Republican-controlled Legislature will craft the budget, and Evers will consider signing it, or he could veto all or part of it.

Read the March 8 issue of BizTimes Milwaukee here:

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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