Press Release: Gov. Evers, WEDC Request Release of $20 Million to Support Local Communities After Recent UW Campus Closures

Office of Governor Tony Evers
Gov. Evers, WEDC Request Release of $20 Million to Support Local Communities After Recent UW Campus Closures

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers, together with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), submitted a request to the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee (JFC) requesting the release of $20 million in funding aimed at supporting local communities after recent University of Wisconsin (UW) System branch campus closures. The Branch Redevelopment Grant Program, which was established when Gov. Evers approved 2023 Wisconsin Act 250 with partial vetoes to improve flexibility for local communities applying to receive the funds, will be used to help communities transition closed campus sites for new purposes. Releasing the funding under the Evers Administration’s request will enable communities to begin implementing the program, accepting applications, and making awards without onerous restrictions.

Gov. Evers’ line-item vetoes to Act 250 removed several Wisconsin State Legislature-imposed restrictions on communities seeking to receive funding under this program, including eliminating provisions that would have:

  • forced local communities to make a 20 percent match to receive state funding under the program;  
  • prohibited communities from using funding to redevelop facilities that are or will be used for academic purposes;  
  • prevented certain communities from receiving grants under the program before others; and  
  • required additional legislative approval steps that could have delayed the timely release of funding to impacted communities. 

Years of lack of meaningful investments in our UW System has caused recent faculty layoffs and campus closures that are adversely affecting our students, faculty and staff and their families, local communities, and our entire statethese are challenges that we must work to address, and quickly, to prevent further layoffs and closures. This funding is critically important in the meantime to help communities like Richland Center, Washington County, Fond du Lac, and Marinette find new uses for the infrastructure and existing buildings to support local communities and economies,” said Gov. Evers. I look forward to the Joint Finance Committee releasing these funds without delay so we can get them into the hands of the folks who need them and revitalize these campus sites as soon as possible.”

The Evers Administration request comes as Gov. Evers continues to advocate for increased investments in higher education after years of attacks and a lack of meaningful, ongoing state investment in the UW System

During the 2023-25 biennial budget process, Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature rejected Gov. Evers’ proposed investments in the UW System, choosing instead to divert more than $31 million to the JFC supplemental appropriation—a fund controlled by the committee’s Republican supermajority, which persistently refuses to expeditiously release already-approved investments from the fund—and attempting to cut 188 positions relating to efforts around diversity and equity, the latter of which Gov. Evers was able to ensure UW could retain through vetoes in the biennial budget.      

In light of Republican lawmakers’ failure to meaningfully invest in the UW System through the 2023-25 biennial budget process, Gov. Evers shortly thereafter called a special session of the Legislature for September 2023 for the Legislature to take up his comprehensive workforce plan, which included an additional more than $100 million investment in the state’s higher education institutions, including an additional $66.4 million for the UW System to help recruit, train, and retain talent in an effort to bolster the state’s workforce.  

Republicans in the Legislature refused to take up the governor’s comprehensive workforce plan, rejecting investments in Wisconsin’s universities and technical colleges even as several UW campuses have been forced to furlough and lay off employees, shift funding or make cuts, and restructure portions of campus operations. UW-Oshkosh announced last year that approximately 200 employees’ jobs were expected to end. At UW-Platteville, the university announced it would be eliminating 111 positions to help address its deficit. And UW-Green Bay announced that nine staff members would be laid off, affecting library services at their Manitowoc, Marinette, and Sheboygan campuses and a program aimed at helping high schoolers earn college credits. UW-Green Bay also announced they are considering discontinuing majors in economics, environmental policy and planning, and the arts, as well as minors in international environmental studies, geography, and physics.  

Earlier this year, in response to the University Financial Assessments released by the UW System for seven UW campuses, UW-Green Bay, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Parkside, UW-Platteville, UW-River Falls, UW-Superior, and UW-Whitewater, Gov. Evers announced he would be asking the Legislature to approve the largest increase in state support for the UW System in more than two decades in the next biennial budget. The assessments examine the strained financial circumstances facing UW System campuses—a consequence driven largely by both disinvestment in the UW System over the last decade-plus and inadequate recent state investments approved by the Legislature to make the UW System whole.  

In March, Gov. Evers
signed 2023 Wisconsin Act 250 with partial vetoes, creating the Branch Redevelopment Grant Program, administered by WEDC, to award up to $2 million to cities, villages, towns, or counties to assist in the costs of redevelopment of UW System branch campus buildings that will no longer be used for academic purposes. Act 250 also appropriated $20 million to the JFC supplemental appropriation for the program. The governor’s partial veto of the bill, as noted above, removed restrictive statutory requirements to allow greater flexibility for WEDC to award grants to counties more efficiently and reduce financial burdens on the local communities requesting the funds. Additional information on Act 250 is available here. The governor’s veto message for Act 250 is available here.

A copy of the 13.10 request submitted by WEDC to JFC is available here. 


Last week, Gov. Evers sued the Legislature over the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee’s refusal to release a critical investment aimed at improving K-12 student literacy, one of many investments intended to respond to pressing challenges facing Wisconsin. Additional information on Gov. Evers’ countersuit and Republican’s refusal to release nearly $200 million in already-approved funding to fight PFAS, improve kids’ literacy, and respond to hospital closures in Western Wisconsin is available here. 

An online version of this release is available here.