Attorney General Josh Kaul asks for big spending bump in next DOJ budget

Wishlist for the statewide law enforcement agency totals $490M in funding

Josh Kaul wears a mask as he speaks at a podium.
Attorney General Josh Kaul speaks during a press conference about abortion laws Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul is asking for a big spending bump in the state Department of Justice’s next budget.

Kaul’s wishlist for the statewide law enforcement agency would total $490 million in funding. That includes $253.7 million in general purpose revenue — a roughly 60 percent increase compared to the current budget. Wisconsin’s state budgets cover a two-year cycle.

Kaul’s request now heads to the governor, who will present his 2023-25 budget recommendation covering all state agencies to the state Legislature early next year. State lawmakers typically approve a budget for the governor’s signature before the fiscal year begins July 1. In recent cycles, however, the Republican-led Legislature has opted to scrap many of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed priorities in favor of writing the budget mostly from scratch.

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Kaul, a Democrat who’s running Nov. 8 to keep his seat against Republican Eric Toney, pegs the request as a “crime-fighting budget.”

The budget ask includes additional grant money to local law enforcement, along with funding for a 24-hour hotline to report hate crimes. And Kaul wants the DOJ to hire more staff, including 19 additional special agents and analysts within the Division of Criminal Investigation, as well as 16 DNA analysts, toxicologists and crime scene response specialists to help state crime labs. He’s also asking for two more violent crime prosecutors, which he says will expand the state’s capacity for taking on criminal cases.

“In the next state budget, it’s critical that the legislature finally ensures that communities have the resources they need for public safety,” Kaul said in a statement.

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue has predicted the state will close out the fiscal year with a record $5 billion surplus, prompting Evers to ask for the Legislature’s approval of $600 million annually in tax cuts, including an income tax reduction for some Wisconsinites.’

Evers, who took office in 2019, faces Republican Tim Michels in November’s general election. Budget requests from state agencies were due this month and the Wisconsin Department of Administration is compiling them in a report for the governor’s review.