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A Kitchen of Executive Proportions
No tax dollars for a Governor's Mansion remodeling?
A pair of kitchen remodels planned for the Governor's Mansion in Madison (the palatial "executive residence" on Lake Mendota) may not rely on tax dollars after all.

At a meeting of the State Building Commission today, Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch withdrew a request for $478,700 in borrowing backed by the state's general fund to pay for the renovations, according to WisPolitics.

Maintenance of the mansion is normally covered by the Wisconsin Executive Residence Foundation, which is supported by private donations, but large overhauls of mansion facilities are sometimes funded with tax dollars. The Doyle administration used fundraising plus $198,200 in borrowing to redo the home's basement (rec room?), according Madison's WKOW-TV.

First Lady Tonette Walker said  in a Dec. 8 statement -- released after a WKOW story on the request for $478,700 -- that she was "fully committed to working with the foundation to raise the majority of the funds for this project and limit the impact on our state's taxpayers." But Huebsch's comments today further downplayed the possibility of tapping into state funds.

"We will bring this issue before the commission again in the future if state funds are needed but will provide WERF the opportunity to raise funds before turning to taxpayer dollars," he said.

Gov. Scott Walker's office estimates that some 15,000 visitors use the mansion every year, either for tours or events. Walker and Tonette don't live in the home, having chosen to remain at their house in Wauwatosa.

$478,700 in planned updates would revamp both a first-floor industrial kitchen sometimes used for events and a second floor kitchenette that's a mite homier.

A press release from Walker's office noted that "the executive residence kitchens have not been updated since 1986 and the 1960s ... (Both) are outdated, in poor condition and have failing equipment in need of frequent repair."

An editorial in The Cap Times suggested that Walker was planning a "gold-plated kitchen" and recommended that he use state workers instead of private contractors, to reduce the expense.

(photo from firstlady.wi.gov)

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