Joint Finance Committee's Decision
Posted: May 22, 2015
I am still trying to wrap my head around the state Joint Finance Committee's decision earlier this month to not approve a non-state grant to support the City of Eau Claire's proposed Confluence Project. In a straight party-line vote, the committee voted 12-4 to reject the $15 million grant for a $40 million performing arts center.
The reason for the rejection, according to committee members, was the desire to put more money into public education. While that is an admirable goal, the fact that the university, city and county have collaborated to work on this massive project should have been seen as a sign that government and the private sector just need help making something happen positive for downtown revitalization.
There is a slight chance that money could be put back into the state budget to support the performing arts center. However, the county's commitment to the project was contingent on the state receiving the $15 million in grant money, so the question is whether Eau Claire County will remain committed to the project given the state's rejection. There have also been rumblings that the City of Eau Claire may push forward with the project without the state's help.
Either way, the project that involves Commonweal Development, the UW-Eau Claire Foundation and Market & Johnson Inc. is in limbo. In the meantime, the ongoing Haymarket Landing project downtown continues and will presumably move forward despite the state's resistance.
Members of the Joint Finance Committee were obviously spooked by the possibility that the state will not receive the revenue growth expected by the uptick in the economy. And given the fact that Governor Scott Walker included the $15 million in his proposed state budget made the Confluence Project's performing arts center an even more likely possibility that the state's budget-writing committee would include the project in its funding plan.
I am most disappointed that local lawmakers have not been able to sway their peers to support the Confluence Project. I am wondering if our governor were not spending most of his time and energy running for president if things would have turned out differently.
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