The State Bar of Wisconsin has renewed its call for adequate state funding and staffing of District Attorney offices. Mike Kernats, the President of the Bar’s Government Lawyers Division, says county prosecutors have been inadequately paid and supported by the state. “What’s happened lately is there have been proposals to lay these prosectors off, put them on furloughs, and in addition for the last few years a lot of the prosecutors have voluntarily chosen to leave prosecution to go to other lines of work,” says Kernats. “Their salaries are low, they’re not able to meet their expenses.”
Governor Jim Doyle approved a contract with a two percent pay hike last year, but Kernats says the legislature has yet to come up with that money. He says that’s discouraging, and a reason why there’s a lot of turnover in district attorneys offices. “You want them to stay, and to develop experience and to become very good at that job, and the way to do that is to – like any other profession – provide adequate pay increases,” Kernats says. “We’d like the legislature to fund more money to pay for the prosecutors.”
State Bar President Douglas Kammer is urging lawmakers to provide adequate funding. Kernats says the prosecutors are happy to receive the additional funds contained in the new, tougher drunk driving law, but that more needs to be done.