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Wisconsin Senate approves plan to punish cities, counties that defund police

The proposal imposes a dollar-for-dollar cut in state aid for every dollar that local governments take away from law enforcement.

Updated: June 9, 2021 - 11:54pm

Cities, towns, and counties in Wisconsin that take money away from their police departments would get less money from the state under a new plan headed out of the state Senate.

Lawmakers OK'd the plan, Senate Bill 119, on a party-line vote, 20-12.

The proposal imposes a dollar-for-dollar cut in state aid for every dollar that local governments take away from law enforcement. Any money that is withheld by the state would then be reinvested into cities, towns, and counties that spend more on their police departments.

Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) is the plan's author. He said the message is simple: Local governments that defund the police will pay a price.

"Government's responsibility is to protect the people that live in our communities and in this state," Wanggaard said during Wednesday's debate. "When you can't walk out your front door and walk in your neighborhood without being armed, for fear of being mugged, carjacked, raped or whatever, that to me is not living."

Democrats in the Senate said the plan is pure politics.

Sen. Janet Bewley (D-Madison) said Republicans are looking to punish Milwaukee and other poorer, big cities in the state.

"The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer," Bewley said on the Senate floor Wednesday. "The communities that can't afford to keep their police are going to lose money. And it's going to be redistributed, probably to communities where Republicans have constituents."

Bewley said cities and towns shouldn't worry about losing money, because she said Gov. Tony Evers is certain to veto the proposal.

Wanggaard said that's a choice the governor and Democratic lawmakers will have to make.

"Anybody who votes 'no' for this, that would like to cut more police officers from their community, that's a vote against public safety," Wanggaard added.

The plan now heads to the Assembly, where it's expected to pass. From there it would head to Evers' desk.

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