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Rotunda Report
  • Rotunda Report
    July 12, 2023

    Wisconsin's Biennial Budget Becomes Law

    Wisconsin's biennial budget was signed into law by Governor Evers in mid-July after several line item vetoes. The final budget will include sorely needed criminal justice funding increases.

    Cale Battles

    Wisconsin Capitol during summer

    July 11, 2023 – After months of wrangling and deliberating, legislators finished their work on the almost $100 billion dollar budget the last week of June. Just after the 4th of the July holiday, Governor Tony Evers, after 50 plus line-item vetoes, signed the wide-ranging spending plan that will be in effect for the state over the next two fiscal years.

    Many of the line-item vetoes dealt with income tax reductions, University of Wisconsin system funding, and a creative K-12 per pupil funding increase that could be in effect until 2425. Republican leaders in both the Senate and Assembly indicated that veto override attempts will be scheduled in July, but in the Assembly, Republicans lack the 2/3rd majority of members needed for an override and would need Democratic members’ votes to be successful. The last successful override of a Governor was in 1985.

    Criminal Justice Attorneys Will Receive Boost for Retention and Recruitment

    Lost in budget signing hoopla was the successful and bipartisan action to fund District Attorney offices, the State Public Defenders and those private attorneys that take assigned counsel cases. The State Bar worked to highlight many of these issues back in January and February and used a sustained grassroots effort to successfully get these increases included in the state’s budget. These efforts can be seen at

    Cale Battles Cale Battles, is a government relations coordinator with the State Bar of Wisconsin. He can be reached by email, or by phone at (608) 250-6077.

    A coalition of district attorneys, state prosecutors, the State Public Defender’s Office and the courts worked collectively to highlight the issues they are seeing both in getting new attorneys to take jobs and also getting them to stay and make a career in the system.

    This joint effort culminated in the Joint Finance Committee unanimously supporting many of the justice system’s budget initiatives and the Governor signing those changes into law. The bipartisan proposals included:

    • Increasing the starting hourly pay for new assistant district attorneys and state public defenders to $36 an hour for the 2023-2024 fiscal year;

    • approving salary adjustments and pay progression for assistant district attorneys and state public defenders by $8.76 an hour the first year of the budget and an additional $2.27 in year two;

    • increasing the private bar rate to $100 per hour with an increase in travel reimbursement to $50; and

    • funding for four additional circuit court branches.

    Fall Session on Horizon

    Historically, once the budget has been finalized, the legislature rarely holds session floor periods during the summer months. Legislative committees will still meet, and public hearings will still occur as the legislature preps bills for fall votes. This summer could be different. If veto override attempts fail, it opens up the possibility that legislature will call themselves into special session to pass individual bills to address their concerns on issues they disagree with the Governor.

    To keep up to date with legislative developments, subscribe to Rotunda Report and follow the State Bar on Twitter at @SBWRotundaRpt.

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