Madison elected officials are blasting a Republican budget proposal that could move state agencies and departments out of Dane County and exempt the Hill Farms redevelopment from local zoning, calling it little more than a stick in the eye to the city.
“The only way you can read this is they want to bring Madison to its knees,” Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, said Thursday.
Under a Republican budget proposal unveiled late Wednesday, the state would be required to consider relocating its agencies to buildings outside of Dane and Milwaukee counties before renewing any leases. The measure also takes control away from the city when it comes to the nearly $200 million redevelopment of the Hill Farms state office building property.
Berceau said the changes, which include new restrictions on how cities can use hotel room taxes, are not about saving money or improving government.
“I don’t see any good public policy on any of this,” she said. “I’ve been here for 17 years and the arrogance and scorn for local government is incredible. They resent anybody who is doing better than they are.”
Madison Ald. Chris Schmidt, who represents the Hill Farms neighborhood, echoed those comments. He addressed concerns over the city's traditional reluctance to approve ambitious development by saying Madison has already shown a willingness to embrace tall buildings. He said there is no need for the special zoning exemption on the 21-acre Hill Farms site, which is being sold to a private developer.
The project involves selling the existing 400,000-square-foot state office building at 4802 Sheboygan Ave., along with its adjacent land, and constructing a new 600,000-square-foot building which would be owned by the state upon completion.
The project, which has been awarded to a development team headed by Gilbane Inc., also calls for up to 2,500 parking spaces and purchase of a separate state office building on Badger Road.
“The irony is that we are not afraid of building things,” said Schmidt, noting the 11-story apartment building currently under construction across Segoe Road from Hill Farms.
Schmidt also unloaded on Republicans on the budget writing Joint Finance Committee, which has voted 12-4 along party lines for the changes. He said the changes that will hit Madison came out of nowhere.
“This is capricious, childish behavior,” he said. “We get the message you don’t like us. But don’t drive the economy of one of the largest counties in the state into the gutter.”