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Prosecutors say Doyle's budget makes it hard to put criminals away

Wisconsin's prosecutors say Gov. Jim Doyle is making it harder to put criminals away.

Ralph Uttke, head of the state District Attorneys Association, said the governor suggested a pay cut for prosecutors in the next state budget and he ignored the group's request to raise the alcohol tax to provide more money.

According to Uttke, 70 percent of the DAs' cases are alcohol-related. And he said a hike in the alcohol tax would have offered new programs to help those offenders, and add 120 more prosecutors.

The alcohol tax hike was not part of the two-year budget Doyle proposed to the Legislature a week ago.

The governor's budget director said the pay cut was 1 percent. But the head of the DA's union cites a larger amount. Their group is the only one which has not agreed to a new contract with the state.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said low pay is causing the most skilled prosecutors to go elsewhere - and that leaves less-experienced attorneys to handle cases which keep getting more complex.

Chisholm said the pay difference is just $2,000 a year between a rookie prosecutor and one with eight years' experience. And he said federal grants are the main reason his staff has not shrunk over the past two decades.