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State Bar proposes eliminating $4 dues increase, citing pandemic

By: Michaela Paukner, [email protected]//April 16, 2020//

State Bar proposes eliminating $4 dues increase, citing pandemic

By: Michaela Paukner, [email protected]//April 16, 2020//

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The State Bar of Wisconsin is asking its Board of Governors to eliminate the $4 dues increase proposed in its 2021 budget to help lawyers who are struggling with financial hardship amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A message to the Board of Governors from State Bar President Jill Kastner said the State Bar presidents, treasurer, chair of the Finance Committee and senior administration unanimously support a proposed amendment to eliminate the increase and use State Bar reserves instead.

Kastner said the State Bar would make a one-time draw of about $80,000 from its reserves to help pay for general operations. She said she is generally opposed to using reserves to pay for ongoing expenses, but she and other leaders believe the step is in members’ best interests given the extraordinary circumstances.

“Now is not the time for the State Bar to be adding to these financial hardships by raising dues,” Kastner wrote.

Kastner said next year’s budget could propose an even larger dues increase, but officials aren’t able to fully predict the budgetary effects because of current uncertainty over how long the pandemic and resulting economic shutdown will last.

The amendment will be presented at Friday’s Board of Governor’s teleconference meeting.

The State Bar also plans to extend its dues-payment deadline to Sept. 30 — giving lawyers an extra 30 days to pay without incurring a late fee. Officials are also working with the Wisconsin Supreme Court to find out if an extended validity of current State Bar cards can be moved from June 30 to Sept. 30 to better align with the time frame for payment.

The State Bar is developing a way for members to pay their 2021 assessments and dues in four installments from June through September, similar to the installment plan rolled out for Fiscal Year 2020. Kastner said there will be three equal installments in June through August, and the remaining balance will be due in September.

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