Rather than making solid investments in Wisconsin’s future workforce, GOP lawmakers seem stuck on corporate tax giveaways that do nothing to create jobs today or tomorrow.
This one’s a real head-scratcher. For the second time in state budget cycles, Republicans on the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee have rejected funding to replace the UW-Madison College of Engineering’s building. The project on our state’s flagship campus has broad support, especially from the business sector that sees the value of long-term investments in the Wisconsin workforce. It would have been a far better investment than the corporate tax breaks that have become an addiction for the GOP.
As noted in news accounts, the College of Engineering receives around 8,000 applicants per year but can only accept about 1,200, leaving many to attend larger schools such as Purdue University and the University of Illinois. A new building would allow the department to accept another 1,000 students, and lead to additional teachers, resources, and research that would widen the jobs pipeline into the rest of Wisconsin after every graduation.
The engineering project has the support of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, arguably the Republican Party’s best known patron, along with a host of other groups representing business interests and the manufacturing and construction industries. Gov. Tony Evers’ nearly $200 million request for the project would be accompanied by about $150 million in private gifts and grants. The GOP’s rejection means at least a two-year delay for the funds, and that’s only if Democrats take control of the legislature in 2024, but there’s no guarantee all those donors will still be around at that point.
Notably, these are some of the same Republicans who couldn’t move fast enough to throw billions of dollars at the infamous Foxconn project, which never lived up to its lofty promises of substantial job creation. Now with a $7 billion record surplus, GOP lawmakers have made themselves the embodiment of the phrase “penny-wise and pound-foolish.”
The saddest part about all of this is that it appears to be based solely on political games and spite. Each budget cycle, Republicans gleefully reject many of Evers’ requests and label them as “big spending,” without even pretending to conduct a serious review of the merits of each idea. They just cannot bring themselves to be taken seriously as a governing majority, and Wisconsin suffers a little more with each short-sighted blunder. The full Assembly and Senate should restore this vital project when the state budget bill eventually reaches the floors of both chambers.