Evers: More time, money may be needed for youth corrections overhaul

Gov.-elect Tony Evers says more time and money will likely be needed to complete an overhaul of the state’s youth prison system.

The Legislature in March approved an $80 million plan to close the state’s troubled Lincoln Hills youth prison and move juvenile offenders to new regional facilities by January 2021.

Evers, responding to concerns about the timetable and budget from plan co-author Rep. Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, said there may need to be a request for additional time. He added that likely not enough money was allocated.

“The governor and the Legislature on behalf of the people of Wisconsin decided to do something about Lincoln Hills. We just have to make sure that we can have it happen,” Evers said during a Milwaukee news conference Wednesday. “I’m skeptical whether that present timeline is going to work.”

Evers said he hopes GOP legislators will take clerks’ concerns into consideration as they decide during the lame-duck session whether to move the state’s presidential primary so it won’t share a ballot with the state’s Supreme Court election.

Several local election officials have panned the plan due to the extra expense and workload it would entail with three elections in the first half of 2020.

“That’s putting a heavy burden on our municipalities and the people that are doing that hard work in the state of Wisconsin, and it’s going to cost money,” Evers said. “I’m hopeful that the Legislature will take that into account.”

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald on Tuesday acknowledged moving the date could help the chances conservative Justice Daniel Kelly retains his seat on the Supreme Court, as it won’t share the ballot with a contested Dem presidential primary. But he also said adding an election would generate criticism that could be “used against Kelly in the end.”

Evers said it’s an “odd position” to take to move an election to help elect a preferred candidate, but that he’s most concerned about the impact on local elections clerks.

“Those are the people that have to do the work,” Evers said.

With GOP legislators considering several moves to limit Evers’ powers before he takes office, the Dem governor-elect said “you’re always kind of fearful of the outcome” of a lame-duck session. But he said he’s optimistic it will be “much about nothing.”

“What I’m hopeful is that people are reasonable, they understand that they just had an election, the people of Wisconsin voted for me,” Evers said. “And I hope that Gov. Walker takes that into account as he looks at his legacy and turning over the authority of the state of Wisconsin to me as governor.”

Evers, asked about his initial tweet that the GOP effort was “ridiculous,” said he’s yet to see any legislation so couldn’t comment directly on any proposal.

“Some of the proposals haven’t come forward, so we will determine whether they’re ridiculous once we see them,” Evers said.

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