Tom Warne Report, 2 April 2013
MADISON – Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed capital proposed budget schedules the state to break ground on a replacement building, which will cost nearly $200 million, for the transportation department headquarters by summer 2014, but a $49 million law enforcement building in the Milwaukee area was not part of the plan. Projects are expected to be eliminated from the capital budget, however, as GOP lawmakers attempt to reduce the amount of borrowing proposed by the governor.
The new DOT building in Madison would replace the 56-year-old Hill Farms building and makes up three-fifths of the overall two-year, $329.1 million budget for the state’s properties and offices that went before the state Building Commission this week. The capital budget is separate from Walker’s larger budget bill for overall state operations that went before a legislative committee Wednesday.
Walker’s capital budget includes a plan to borrow nearly $1 billion alone for transportation projects and is facing scrutiny from his fellow legislative Republicans. He defended his bonding plan to reporters, saying that with low interest rates and construction costs, the timing is right. “If you were ever going to be aggressive in that regard, now’s a good time to do that,” he said of bonding.
The aging DOT building may require tens of millions in maintenance in the coming years if it is not replaced, the Department of Administration said. Renovating instead of rebuilding would cost $142 million, compared to $196.6 million for a new 600,000-square-foot building. The existing 368,000-square-foot structure on Madison’s west side houses 1,500 employees. The new building would also take on the nearly 400 employees of the Department of Employee Trust Funds, and possibly other agencies as well.