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Democratic Legislators Look For Leverage In Upcoming Budget Process

Lincoln Hills Funding May Be Common Ground

Richard Hurd (CC-BY)

With splits already appearing in Wisconsin’s Republican legislative majority over issues in the upcoming state budget process, some Milwaukee Democratic lawmakers see an opportunity to influence the outcome. They say they hope to see Republicans “own up” to mistakes if the GOP wants any help from the minority party during deliberations this spring.

At a news conference Monday, state Rep. David Crowley, chair of the Milwaukee Democratic Legislative Caucus, said if Republicans admit the state has problems, they may be able to win some Democratic votes.

“They need to figure out how they can come across the aisle and work with us. And the one way to do that is let us know that you understand the reason why we’re in this is because of you, ” Crowley said. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ office didn’t reply to a request for comment about Crowley’s remarks.

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One particular issue the Democratic legislators highlighted is preventing Wisconsin’s two juvenile correctional facilities from getting more money in the upcoming budget. Complaints about mistreatment of inmates continue at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls in Irma and a federal investigation is ongoing.

Much of the funding for those institutions comes from counties that send troubled youths there. But Democrats say the Wisconsin Department of Corrections wants $3 million more in state funds to add staff at the two sites. Milwaukee state Rep. David Bowen called on Republicans to help block those funds.

“There are a number of Republicans who don’t want to carry the governor’s water because they know the mismanagement has been damaging – even fiscally – to the state, and they are ready to move forward.”

Another Milwaukee Democrat, Rep. Evan Goyke, agreed. “That general purpose revenue – the DOC is asking for money to be thrown at Lincoln Hills, and I think there a number of lawmakers on both sides who don’t want to put good money after bad.”

Goyke said many Democrats support switching to local housing of juvenile offenders and funding more ways to keep young people out of trouble.

Walker’s office didn’t respond to a question about whether Walker will include the DOC funding request for Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake in the state budget proposal he’ll announce Wednesday afternoon.