Assembly Republicans back pay increases for corrections officers

May 8, 2019

Assembly Republicans on Wednesday said they would back permanent pay increases for correctional officers to address troublesome vacancy rates at prisons across the state.

The vow from the 19 Assembly GOP members to address compensation rates mirrors a similar commitment made by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, suggesting an area of common ground in what has otherwise been a highly fraught budget process.

For example, Republicans on Thursday are set to remove a list of marquee proposals the governor made in his budget earlier this year, such as Medicaid expansion, overhaul of marijuana laws and tax hikes on big manufacturers and high earners. The move will create a $1.4 billion hole in the budget plan put forth by Evers, and Republicans have not yet specified where they will cut proposed spending to offset the reduced revenue.

The pledge from Republicans to consider an Evers’ budget proposal wasn’t without partisan wrangling. Their letter to Evers and Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr was prompted by their objection to Evers’ plan to provide $5 per hour temporary raises for officers at some corrections institutions: Columbia, Dodge, Green Bay, Taycheedah and Waupon.

The Republicans in Wednesday’s letter, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the administration’s plan to provide select pay increases is unfair.

“All of Wisconsin’s corrections officers face challenges as they work to keep their facilities secure and the public safe while also helping to rehabilitate offenders,” they wrote. “Singling out some officers over others to receive the benefit was not well thought out.”

The average starting wage for Wisconsin’s correctional officers is $16.32 per hour, approximately $2.00 per hour less than the average for Midwestern states, according to the letter.

The Assembly Republicans said they will be open to supporting a “sustainable solution” rather than providing temporary raises.