Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers

There is general agreement at the Wisconsin Capitol that the plan to pay prosecutors and public defenders in the state more is a good thing. 

But not everyone is happy with every piece of the proposal. 

Democrats on the state's budget writing panel, the Joint Finance Committee, took particular exception to what they say in another attempt to "stick is to Milwaukee."

"If you guys won't fund the high intensity drug trafficking area prosecutors, I just don't know," state Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, said in disbelief. "And then at some point there will be some fun press release from some Republican bashing Mayor Tom Barrett and bashing the crime rate in Milwaukee.  Well, you don't get to keep doing this to us, and then come back and kick us again, and again, and again. It's getting pretty tiring."

The idea from the JFC is to spend $25.7 million to pay private attorneys more to handle public defense cases. 

Wisconsin currently pays those attorneys $40 an hour. That would jump to $70 an hour under the JFC's spending plan. That's close to what Gov. Tony Evers asked for in his budget proposal. 

Lawmakers also approved another $3.6 million to help pay for almost 26 new prosecutors across the state. But Democrats say there are not enough new prosecutors earmarked for Milwaukee County. 

Evers and Democratic lawmakers wanted those dollars indexed, so they would automatically increase each year, but Republicans said no.

Goyke accused Republicans of trying to "stick it to Milwaukee."

"If we're talking about high level drug trafficking organizations coming into Milwaukee, where do you think the product is going?" Goyke asked. "It doesn't necessarily stay on my streets. This crime doesn't just stay in the city of Milwaukee. You want to reduce drug use in your neighborhood, your city, then give the resources to cut it off at its source."

None of the four Democrats on the Joint Finance Committee voted for the proposal.

State Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, said that's a shame. 

"I understand there are a couple of small discrepancies," Loudenbeck said Tuesday. "But in the end, we're trying to make up for some things that we haven't been able to do for a long, long time."

The JFC vote is just part of the budget-making process.  

Republicans at the statehouse are crafting their own spending plan, and need to have it finished by the end of June. 

But it remains to be seen just what Evers would then do. He has a powerful veto pen, and is expected to change large parts of the Republican budget. 

Staff Writer

An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.