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GOP drops extra dollars for youth prison closure in Wisconsin

Posted at 7:43 PM, Jun 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-11 20:43:41-04

MADISON (AP) — Republicans are dramatically scaling back Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' plan to spend $194 million more to build smaller facilities to house juvenile offenders when Wisconsin's youth prison closes.

The Legislature last year unanimously approved a bill shuttering the troubled youth prison outside Irma.

The bill requires the prison to close by January 2021 and offenders to be transferred to new, smaller state- and county-run facilities. The measure authorizes $25 million in borrowing to build smaller regional state facilities as well as $15 million to expand the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center. The law also provides $40 million in borrowing to fund grants for counties to build juvenile detention centers.

Evers' state budget would spend an additional $194 million on the new facilities and the Mendota expansion.

Republicans on the Legislature's finance committee introduced their own plan Tuesday that sets out only $43.9 million in new funding. That money would be earmarked only for the Mendota expansion.

Republicans on the Legislature's finance committee have decided to spend about $615 million less on building projects around the state than Evers wants.

Evers' state budget proposal called for spending $2.5 billion, including $1.1 billion for University of Wisconsin System construction projects.

Republicans on the finance committee introduced their own plan Tuesday. It would spend about $1.9 billion on construction projects, including $5 million to buy land and launch a request for bids to build a new prison to replace the Green Bay Correctional Institution. Evers' budget didn't include any provisions for a new prison.

The Republican plan matches Evers' call to spend $77.6 million to renovate Camp Randall Stadium and $48 million to renovate the Kohl Center.

The finance committee was expected to approve the new plan Tuesday evening.

Republicans who control the Legislature's finance committee are going along with Evers' plan to extend the Department of Natural Resources' stewardship program for another two years.

The stewardship program was established in 1989. It's scheduled to end in mid-2020.

The program allows the DNR to borrow money to acquire land, develop recreational facilities and provide grants to local governments and conservation groups to help them buy land.

The governor's state budget would extend the program using $23.9 million in unused borrowing authority and providing $42.6 million in new borrowing authority. He also would create a commission to develop recommendations for a long-term reauthorization.

Republicans have long criticized the program, saying it places too much land under government control and has racked up too much debt.

But GOP members of the finance committee voted Tuesday to keep the stewardship extension in the budget.