Republicans on the Wisconsin legislature’s budget panel backed a recommendation from Governor Scott Walker on Tuesday, voting to move oversight functions for a pretrial intoxicated driver intervention grant program from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Health Services, and leaving funding in doubt.
The Joint Finance Committee’s Republican majority rejected a motion by Democrats to leave the program as is.
“Somebody is going to be killed by one of these drivers, who could have got treatment in this program, if we don’t do this and fund it,” said Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison), who suggested that the issue was not a priority for Republicans.
“You can’t tell me it isn’t a priority for me, because it is,” said Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills). “But I’ll tell you what, it’s different being on the other side of the aisle, when we have balance a budget, and we have to live within our means.”
Ten Wisconsin counties use the state grant, and matching funds, on pretrial diversion programs for drunk drivers. Under the change, DHS would need to find funding to continue the program. The vote to reject the Democrat’s motion was 12-4.
In other action on Tuesday, GOP members rejected a Democratic motion to insert redistricting reform in the state budget. The proposal was similar to a stand-alone bill offered by Democrats last session, modeled on the non-partisan system in place in Iowa.
“You don’t have to adopt something that doesn’t make sense for Wisconsin just because all of a sudden a bunch of editorial page editors are writing stories about it,” said Representative Dean Knudson (R-Hudson). Under the current system, redistricting is in the hands of legislative leaders.
Governor Scott Walker’s budget includes an increase of $422, 600 for the next two years for the governor’s office. Democrats noted Walker’s absences as he explores a presidential campaign as they offered an amendment to delete the increase, but that failed on a 12-4 vote.
The committee did find consensus on the needs of prosecutors in Wisconsin’s 72 counties, and the state public defenders office. They voted unanimously to increase salaries for assistant and deputy district attorneys, and assistant public defenders, and to add 35 additional public defenders.
Also, the panel approved a motion by Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), to make district attorneys in Florence, Pepin and Buffalo counties full time. The original proposal was for only Florence County to get the funding for a full time DA, but Erpenbach noted that the other counties have significantly larger populations.