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Judicial salaries, public defender pay up for votes

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee planned to vote on several parts of Gov. Scott Walker’s two-year spending plan on Wednesday. Those include:

— PAROLE COMMISSION: The state Parole Commission would be eliminated under Walker’s plan and replaced with a parole director the governor would appoint. There are 3,044 inmates currently serving a prison sentence who were convicted of a crime that is eligible for parole. Only crimes committed before 2000 are parole-eligible.

— JUDICIAL SALARIES: Walker’s budget calls for increasing the salary of Wisconsin’s judges 2 percent each of the next two years, which is the same as what state employees would receive. Wisconsin’s judicial salaries are the 43th lowest nationwide, according to the National Center for State Courts. Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Pat Roggensack wants a 16 percent increase over two years.

— DISTRICT ATTORNEY, PUBLIC DEFENDER PAY: District attorneys and public defenders, who have complained about the ability to recruit and retain attorneys based on their current salaries, would see pay increases under Walker’s budget. The money provided would allow district attorneys to increase salaries nearly $2 an hour while public defenders would get a 2 percent increase in each of the next two years.

— PROPERTY TAX: One of Walker’s top budget priorities is eliminating the state property tax, which benefits forests and costs the owner of a median-valued home about $27 a year. He would replace the roughly $180 million raised over two years with money from the state’s main account. Opponents say that puts money for Wisconsin’s forests at risk because it would have to compete with money for all other parts of state government including education, medical assistance and prisons.

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