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Republicans shoot down UW-L science center project completion for third time



FILE - Phase I of the UW-La Crosse Prairie Springs Science Center.

The second phase of the Prairie Springs Science Center at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse won’t be getting built any time soon — if ever.

Despite a $6.9 billion budget surplus, Republicans, who control the Joint Finance Committee, rejected the $187 million project again, putting on hold its completion now for over five years.

Democratic state Assembly Rep. Jill Billings of La Crosse has pushed for the project to be completed. Billings is a member of the State Building Commission, as well.

“I am disappointed that my Republican colleagues on the Joint Committee on Finance did not include the Prairie Springs Phase II Project in the 2023-25 Capital Budget,” Billings said in a statement. “We have an historic surplus, and should take this opportunity to invest in deferred, delayed, and shovel ready projects on campuses across the state, such as the project at UW-La Crosse.”

Because the project has been delayed by Republicans year after year, its price tag has jumped by $100 million.

“This is a shortsighted decision from Republican Legislators as the cost of these delayed projects will only increase leading up to the next budget,” Billings added. “At a time of workforce shortages, this is not a positive step forward for Wisconsin’s future workforce. It’s a poor choice to not invest in the campus infrastructure which supports the education and training of our future science and health science workers.”

The first phase of the science center was approved in 2018 under a Republican-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Since Democratic Gov. Tony Evers took over, phase two has been rejected three times.

Like Billings, Wisconsin state Sen. Brad Pfaff of Onalaska was also disappointed in the decision by the committee.

“Nearly half of the undergraduates at UW-La Crosse are in the College of Science and Health,” Pfaff said. “Many of these students will go on to work in health care and scientific fields that contribute tremendously to our local economy.

“No one should play politics with your education; it is far past time that this building be completed. At a time when our state is facing workforce challenges, we should do everything we can to prepare and educate the next generation.”

Evers and Pfaff had recently toured the campus to promote the science center, even asking alumni to call on the Joint Finance Committee to approve Phase II.

Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, while serving as interim UW System President, pleaded last year for the project be completed.

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. walden

    June 4, 2023 at 1:35 pm

    The size of old Cowley has been dwarfed by the new science building and the new health science building. A third new science building was never justified; so good riddance to that boondoggle.

    How much will it cost to repair old Cowley? Surely less than $180 million to replace it. Hopefully those responsible for preserving assets but instead allowed the Cowley building to deteriorate have “moved on.”

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