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Panel approves police OT grants, cuts drug investigation, crowd-control funds

MADISON, Wis. - The state Department of Justice would get half of the new money Gov. Scott Walker planned to give the agency for drug investigations under changes the Legislature's finance committee has made to the governor's state budget.

Walker's budget would have given DOJ $1 million over the next biennium to support DOJ drug investigations. The money would have come from DNA and crime lab surcharges on criminal defendants and municipal offenders. According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the surcharge fund faces a projected deficit.

The Joint Finance Committee voted 16-0 on Tuesday to give DOJ $500,000 from the surcharge revenue over the biennium and require the agency to spend $500,000 of its discretionary settlement funds in additional support of drug probes.

Police overtime grants approved

Wisconsin lawmakers have approved provisions in Walker's budget that would provide local police with $2 million in grants over the next years to cover beat officers' overtime.

JFC approved the plan on a 16-0 vote. The panel amended the budget plan to make only cities with at least 25,000 people eligible for the grants and require the state Department of Justice to shift $2 million from its discretionary funds back to the state to cover the grants.

DOJ's discretionary funds are built through gifts, grants and settlements. According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the agency will end the current fiscal year with $8.4 million in discretionary funds.

Panel eliminates crowd-control grants

The committee scrapped provisions in the budget that would have provided money for local police to create crowd-control units.

Walker's budget laid out $500,000 in grants for local police to create so-called mobile field force units to manage large crowds and saturate areas with police to maintain the peace. According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the grants would provide enough money to create 50 12-officer units across the state.

The vote was unanimous to strip the grants from the budget. There was no discussion.

Democrats rip DOJ spending on seminar gifts

Democrats on the Legislature's budget committee are ripping Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel for spending thousands of dollars on gifts for police who attend training seminars.

Liberal group One Wisconsin Now obtained documents through an open records request Tuesday that show the state Department of Justice has spent nearly $53,000 on such items as backpacks, golf towels, commemorative coins, notebooks, tumblers and bracelets between the 2013-14 fiscal year and the current fiscal year. Schimel's administration is responsible for $37,675.

The Joint Finance Committee's Democrats offered a motion Tuesday to cut DOJ funding by $54,000. They said that's how much the agency has spent on the items, even though their figure is about $1,000 too high. They said Schimel could have used that money to test sexual assault kits.

Republicans on the committee killed the motion. Schimel spokesman Johnny Koremenos says the items were either supplies for training conferences or gifts for the attendees, many of whom paid to attend.


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