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Counties Want State to Pay for Court System and Human Services

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Madison: If you were a part of the 15 percent of people that voted last week you might remember two referendum questions asking if the state should pay for the county run court system and human services it mandates.

"When people voted yes they were saying yes this should be funded through state tax revenues, not the property tax," says Wisconsin Counties Association Legislative Director Craig Thompson.

Thompson says Wisconsin's 72 counties currently pay $400 million a year to run the courts and human service programs state law requires them to provide.

85% of voters supported the non–binding referendum, giving Thompson the ammunition to force the legislature to face the issue. "I don't know how many times you'll find 85% of the voters agree on anything so this is impossible to ignore."

Thompson says the Court system could easily be handed over to the state.

He says counties and the state would cooperate on human services, but the end result would be equal treatment for poorer counties.

County Supervisor Dennis O' Loughlin says Dane County spends $206 million on human services. If the state didn't fund all of it, the county would make up the difference. "I think Dane County would pick up the extra money needed to maintain that quality because one thing we want to do is maintain health care for our community."

O' Loughlin says it's unclear how much the county could take off the property tax rolls if the state picked up the tab, but any amount would help.

Thompson says they are still working out plans, but he says many legislators have been receptive to the idea.

Thompson says the process would take at least 8–10 years to fully hand over control to the state.

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