Wisconsin State Budget
Historic Opportunity to Fund Civil Legal Aid in the State Budget
Wisconsin taxpayers deserve government that is effective and efficient. When people go without legal help, both the legal system and individuals suffer. Every dollar invested in civil legal aid returns at least $7.66 to the economy by increasing people's income, reducing reliance on public services, improving court efficiency, and spending in local economies.
Civil legal aid providers in Wisconsin, like Legal Action of Wisconsin, could use $22 million dollars in the next budget to serve more of the 775,000 Wisconsinites who need civil legal aid every year.
A Smart Investment
Many fiscally conservative states make significant investments in civil legal aid, like $35 million in state funding in Texas. 36 states fund civil legal aid in their state budget. We are seeking $22 million in the biennium.
Civil Legal Aid gives Wisconsinites a way forward:
- Gets people off public assistance by increasing their income
- Reduces reliance on expensive public services, like shelter stays, by keeping people housed
- Gets people back to work by removing legal barriers, like suspended driver's licenses, so Wisconsinites can make it to work
- Protects consumers from the cascading effects of an unresolved consumer scam
- Prevents abuse of older adults
- Helps domestic violence survivors find a route to safety
The state budget goes through a process to determine state funding for the next two years. The governor's office, the state House of Representatives and state Senate all play a role. During the process, they want to hear from Wisconsin residents about what is important to them. Members of the Joint Committee on Finance and any scheduled hearing dates can be found here.
You can find your legislators by going to the legislature's official website at https://legis.wisconsin.gov/, and either entering your full address in the box below, "Who Are My Legislators?" or by clicking on the map icon.
You are always free to reach out to your legislators (by calling their offices, sending emails, mailing letters, or by participating in public hearings) to express what issues matter to you and what you would like to see done in the state. Legislators and their staff are grateful to hear from constituents, like you, as their job is to best represent your interests and priorities.
Legal aid helps people find a way forward.
A Veteran Giving Back to Fellow Veterans
Tyler* had serious PTSD and he lost his professional counseling license. After getting the help he needed for his PTSD, legal aid helped Tyler with the license proceeding and with applying for his new license. His counseling license was reinstated. Now, as a professional counselor, he is helping other veterans who face the same problems. By getting his license back, legal aid helped Tyler achieve stable employment and income, get well himself, and get a new purpose in life - the privilege to help others navigate these struggles, too. Service members like Tyler deserve someone on their side and in their corner to help them live full and productive lives after sacrificing so much for our country.
Getting People Back to Work
We pride ourselves on being a land of opportunity, where everyone gets basic rights and the chance to work hard and move up in the world. But having a valid driver's license is often needed to exercise those rights and to get and keep a family-supporting job. Unfortunately, driver's licenses are often suspended by municipal courts for reasons that have nothing to do with safety violations and those suspensions are a huge barrier to those opportunities to work and move up. Tina* sought our help when she lost her driver's license: She was living in poverty and simply could not afford a fine for a non-safety related traffic ticket. She had a prefect driving record and had never received a safety-related ticket. Tina was working hard to increase her income and had a great job offer - but the offer would be rescinded if she couldn't get a valid driver's license. With our help, Tina got her driver's license reinstated and accepted the family-sustaining job offer.
Ensuring Justice for Victims of Crimes
Unlike those who are accused of crimes, victims of crime are not guaranteed attorneys if they cannot afford one, so many victims go unrepresented and often don't get the justice they deserve. Jane * and her husband Charlie* have three children together. When their two daughters reported that Charlie had been sexually assaulting them for years, Jane reported it to the police. Charlie was charged with sexual assault of his daughters and with possessing child pornography. Legal aid supported Jane throughout the criminal case. When Charlie wanted to make a plea deal, Jane felt that Charlie was not accepting responsibility or being held accountable. With legal aid's help, Jane opposed the sentencing recommendation that was part of the plea deal. The judge agreed with Jane's request for a harsher penalty and sentenced Charlie to 30 years in prison, extended supervision, and lifetime sex offender registration. With help from legal aid, a convicted child predator was held accountable and Jane and her daughters could begin to heal.
*Names changed to protect client privacy