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Making 3rd OWI a felony could cost state over $100 million

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It would cost just more than $100 million a year to make three-time drunken driving a felony in Wisconsin.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau says it reflects the costs of sending 3,000 more offenders to prison, plus the extra judges, prosecutors, and public defenders needed to handle those defendants.

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Right now, only five-time drunken drivers and beyond go to prison if they're convicted.

Gov. Jim Doyle supported making three-time OWI a felony with prison time last spring.

That was after the father of Oconomowoc school official Jennifer Bukosky blasted the state for doing nothing in the wake of her daughter's death.

She was killed in a crash allegedly caused by a three-time drunken driver, although officials said he was high on medications and not booze at the time.

Bukosky's representative, Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, has drafted a bill to make three- and four-time OWI a felony. And he says the state can afford the extra cost.

Kari Kinnard of Mothers Against Drunk Driving says the $100 million does not reflect savings in other areas like lower health care costs and car insurance rates.

But Senate Democratic Majority Leader Russ Decker says it would have a big financial impact, at a time when the next state budget is more than $5 billion in the red.

Doyle spokesman Lee Sensenbrenner says the deficit will make the bill tougher to pass but the governor still supports it.

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