Just one day after the Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission voted to support a civil right to counsel, the state of Wisconsin took a major step back from its support for equal justice under law. Both the Assembly and the Senate voted along party lines to approve the budget, including a provision proposed by the Governor that ends all funding for indigent civil legal services in Wisconsin. The bill now goes to Governor Walker for his signature and any vetoes.
The 2009-2011 budget provided approximately $2.5 million per year for legal services from a portion of the Justice Information Surcharge. The 2011-2013 budget does not reduce the surcharge but eliminates the allocation and authorization of funding for indigent civil legal services. The history and basis of the funding is described in this Legislative Fiscal Bureau paper (pdf) that was prepared for the Joint Finance Committee.