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Our View: Taxpayers pay for political differences fought in courtrooms

opinion River Falls,Wisconsin 54022
Our View: Taxpayers pay for political differences fought in courtrooms
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

State politicians on both sides of the aisle have found a new habit of picking fights with each other in the courtroom. With emotions running high, both sides often seem determined to end a political battle by attempting to have a court overturn the apparent winners.

That’s all fine and dandy except for one little detail -- it is costing taxpayers a bundle of money in legal fees!

That’s because members of state government never pay for their own legal costs. The legal bills are passed along to the taxpayers who are always forced to pay for ongoing issues. Essentially the politicians wage nonstop war in the courtroom and make no apologies for the costs.

Democrat State Sen. Jon Erpenbach recently participated in a legal battle to keep secret the identities of people who wrote to his office during the Act 10 battle. He has piled up over $170,000 in bills for the taxpayers in this ill-advised action.

As they say, however, it is a pittance compared to the ongoing legal efforts involving challenges to Act 10. To date, none of the challenges have been successful since the plan was passed in 2011. Within the past couple of weeks, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago became the most recent to uphold Act 10. Yet the challenges go on, and the enormous cost to defend the law continues to pile up on taxpayers.

Some of the other legal battles that have occurred in recent times include the challenges to the new legislative district boundaries in their party’s favor likewise sparked legal challenge. Those costs went both ways -– there was the cost to challenge the boundaries; and there was millions in costs to pay outside lawyers to draw the boundaries and much more to defend the process in court.

The politics of today have not only created hard feelings on both sides of the aisle, but it has been expensive for taxpayers. The politicians seemed determined to continue to battle, as long as they know that you and I are paying for it.

Republicans, of course, will say that’s all the fault of Democrats who just can’t accept that they lost and the GOP currently has the power. Democrats will say there’s no choice but to fight in court, because the majority refuses to negotiate or compromise.

There may be a little bit of truth in both arguments, but taxpayers should know that this bickering and disruptive politics is costing us all money. Such is the cost of ongoing legal battles in attempts to impose political will.