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11th hour state budget deal adds 65 prosecutors

(KY3)
Published: Jun. 25, 2019 at 5:16 PM CDT
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An 11h hour deal, just ahead of the Assembly floor session and budget vote Tuesday, resulted in a surprising and what many call long overdue move.

Lawmakers introduced a lengthy budget amendment, including a proposal to add nearly 65 prosecutors to district attorneys offices across the state.

That's nearly double the original budget request.

This proposal would add about 18 more prosecutors in counties across Northeast Wisconsin.

Despite months of debate and negotiations, that last second deal, made public about an hour before the Assembly convened, addressed overworked and backlogged district attorneys offices across the state.

De Pere Republican Senator Andre Jacque, who's long been pushing for the addition and was instrumental in Tuesday's amendment, holds a critical vote needed by republicans to pass the budget in the senate Wednesday.

"It's a fantastic feeling to be able to drive that kind of change at this point in the process," says Jacque. "This is, I think, a watershed moment for victims' rights as well."

Brown and Fond du Lac counties would gain the most of any office in the state. Each agency would add three more prosecutors.

Manitowoc, Outagamie, Sheboygan and Winnebago Counties would add two prosecutors each.

Calumet, Shawano/Menominee, Forest and Langlade counties would add one more prosecutor each.

Marinette, Waupaca, Waushara, Florence and Green Lake counties would add a fraction of a full time equivalent position.

The sudden move caught district attorneys by surprise.

"Just ecstatic," Fond du Lac District Attorney Eric Toney said. "It's just tremendous news."

Target 2 Investigates has reported on huge case backlogs for years.

Local county boards have stepped in with temporary funding, but this $7.1 million proposal -- partly from surplus funds and partly from tax dollars -- not only adds state-funded positions, but pay progression.

That means raises to keep prosecutors -- and their experience -- in what can be a very stressful job.

"It should add a higher quality of life for those prosecutors, and then with the added positions also, hopefully reduce some of that stress level where they can more focus on cases," says Toney.

He says adding prosecutors doesn't necessarily mean more cases, but he thinks it should help victims and reduce the chance criminals could re-offend before prosecution.

"It should just be helping get these cases in the system sooner and helping us pay more attention to these cases and be a little more victim-centric," says Toney.

"The big battle was getting it in," says Jacque. "I would certainly hope it stays in when the governor signs the budget."

Governor Tony Evers' office said in a statement, 'He won't be making decisions on the budget until he is able to review the final product that passes both houses of the legislature.'