Increased drunk driving penalties in Wisconsin could carry a big price tag.
Making a third OWI offense a felony would cost the state $150 million a year in prison and court costs, according to the Legislature's budget office. That amounts to about $8.3 million more than what is currently spent to handle those cases as misdemeanors.
Dane County Tavern League President Barb Mercer, who opposes the move, says that would put an astounding extra cost on the system. She says the state can't afford to do something like this right now, with Wisconsin facing a $5.4 billion budget deficit.
However, Kari Kinnard of Mothers Against Drunk Driving says the report does not take into account the deterrent effect the law would have. She says it would save money through lower car insurance premiums and health insurance costs.
The proposal has the backing of Governor Doyle, but it's not clear whether there's enough support in the Legislature for it to pass.