The state’s powerful budget writing committee voted on Tuesday afternoon to increase pay for prosecutors and public defenders as well as increase compensation for private attorneys appointed to represent indigent criminal defendants.
The committee also voted to approve an omnibus motion that partially adopted Gov. Tony Evers’ budget proposal as well as a proposal from state Democrats.
State Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, one of the Republicans who moved the committee to adopt the motion, said that the differences between the Democrats’ proposal and that of the Republicans were minimal.
“At the end, we’re trying to make up for some things we haven’t been able to do for a long, long time,” said Loudenbeck. “I think we should vote together in support of this motion.”
In the end, the committee voted 12-4, along party lines, to pass the motion, which includes 2% raises over the next two years for public defenders and prosecutors under a pay progression plan.
The committee also voted to increase pay for private bar attorneys who take public defender appointments from $40 per hour to $70 per hour starting Jan. 1, the same time the new hourly rate for court-appointed attorneys takes effect. The Wisconsin Supreme Court last year approved the change from $70 per hour to $100 per hour but left it up to the state Legislature to raise the rate for attorneys the State Public Defender appoints.
While Gov. Evers had proposed the $70 per hour rate for those attorneys, lawmakers did not adopt his proposal to tie the rate increase to inflation.
After lawmakers voted, State Public Defender Kelli Thompson issued a statement thanking the committee for approving the increase in the private bar rate.
The motion the panel adopted on Tuesday also approved the creation of about 19 new assistant district attorney positions across the state starting on Oct. 1. Lawmakers also approved additional prosecutors for Marathon and Fond du Lac counties but declined to provide money to pay for four prosecutors in Milwaukee County who work in three speedy-trial drug courts.
Democratic State Reps. Chris Taylor and Evan Goyke criticized the committee’s decision to leave out money for the four Milwaukee prosecutors. Taylor called it “petty” and “counterintuitive.” Follow @erikastrebel