Two days after Speaker Robin Vos said the bill was unlikely to move because a site hadn’t been chosen for the facility, the Assembly unanimously approved funding a replacement for the state’s troubled youth prison in north-central Wisconsin.
In doing so, Vos sought to credit GOP guv candidate Rebecca Kleefisch for getting the bill on track and ripped Dem Gov. Tony Evers and his administration for what the Rochester Republican called a failure to work toward closing the youth prison.
“So here we sit, with no plan, no location, no idea how much it’s going to cost, all after we have waited for three years since we passed a bipartisan proposal,” he said, referring to a law former Gov. Scott Walker signed requiring the prison to close by January 2021.
Vos has been seen as a roadblock on the bill, saying earlier this week it was unlikely the legislation would come to the floor because a site hadn’t been selected for the new youth facility. He read from a letter he said Kleefisch sent him as he ripped Evers.
Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, argued his experience working to close the facilities over the past eight years showed him much more bipartisanship than the last 10 minutes Vos spent speaking. He said working with Assembly Corrections Committee Chair Rep. Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, showed him at least some Republicans are truly committed to working things out.
He also slammed Vos for what he considered revisionist history, reminding the chamber that Evers included funding for the new prison in both of his budgets only to see GOP lawmakers pull it out.
“20 years from now, no one will care about who did what and who wrote the letter,” he said. “What will matter is that this is done.”
The Senate earlier this week approved SB 520, which would approve $42 million in new borrowing to build a new Type 1 facility in Milwaukee County to house the more serious offenders who remain at the existing facility in Lincoln County. The bill doesn’t include a specific site for the facility, and the Evers administration hasn’t announced one.
The Assembly added an amendment that would require the existing Lincoln Hills facility to house adult inmates once the new facility is complete. It also would require local officials to approve the future Milwaukee site before construction can begin.
The amended bill, approved 90-0, now must go back to the Senate before it could go to Evers’ desk. The Senate is expected to meet in early March.