March 24, 2015 – The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee is making its way around the state in an effort to gather public opinion on Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2015-17 biennial budget. These hearings, as well as a state public comment line, give attorneys and the rest of the public an opportunity to weigh in on important budget issues.
The final public hearing, out of a series of four, is scheduled for Thursday, March 26 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Reedsburg High School Auditorium in Reedsburg.
Reedsburg High School
CAL Center Auditorium
1100 South Albert Avenue
Reedsburg, WI 53959
For those who are unable to attend the public hearings, the committee is seeking written comment via email or mail. Comments can be sent to BudgetComments@legis.wisconsin.gov or Joe Malkasian, Room 305 East, State Capitol, Madison, WI 53702.
Once the Joint Finance Committee concludes the public hearings, it will take up individual budget provisions and vote on them in executive sessions. Then the committee will put the entire budget to a final vote, and that final, approved version of the budget is sent to both houses of the Legislature for floor debates and final passage by the governor.
Attorney-Related Budget Provisions
The State Bar of Wisconsin is monitoring several attorney-related budget issues, including reinstatement of support for civil legal services and adequate funding of the court system. The State Bar is also keeping an eye on two budget provisions related to other legal system partners, pay progression and funding for the State Public Defender's office and Department of Justice.
Civil Legal Services Funding
In 2011, the state cut funding for civil legal services, making Wisconsin one of four states with no state legal funding for the indigent. Other Midwestern states budget an average of $7.6 million per year for these services. This biennial budget, the Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission is urging the Legislature to restore state funding for civil legal services to help those who cannot help themselves due to illness, age, abuse or disability.
Court System Funding – A Penny for Justice
Less than a penny of every state tax dollar goes to fund the Wisconsin court system, which means that only 0.85 cents of every state tax dollar goes to fund judges’ and justices’ salaries, court administration, including the state law library, the circuit court support payment system, interpreters and guardian ad litem assistance. The State Bar supports the court’s effort to raise the amount of state tax dollars to 1 cent – or a penny for justice.
Read the State Bar’s Feb. 6 budget synopsis: “State Bar Prepares for Busy Legislative Budget Session” for more information on the governor’s 2015-17 biennial budget proposal.