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Proposal pits small towns against bigger counties in DA funding fight

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news New Richmond, 54017

New Richmond Wisconsin 127 South Knowles Avenue 54017

A state lawmaker wants to spend almost $900,000 to keep prosecutors on the job, after Congress cut their federal aid.

Sen. Jim Sullivan, D-Wauwatosa, is trying to get his colleagues to save 21 assistant district attorney positions in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Dane, Outagamie, Brown, St. Croix and Chippewa counties.

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But small-town prosecutors object.

Joe DeCecco, Sheboygan County district attorney, says the money would be better spent in rural counties, where the DA only has a part-time assistant. He says lawmakers only care about the big cities, while prosecutors in the country have cried for help for years.

Even if the bigger counties lose their federal aid, Sauk County DA Patricia Barrett says they'd still be better off than their rural counterparts.

Barrett, who prosecuted one of the nation's most notorious school murders a year ago, said that if lawmakers approve the latest aid, they might assume they've solved the problem. And rural areas will keep being ignored for a long time.

But some lawmakers say it's all academic anyway, because of a new state deficit that could hit $450 million by mid-2009.

Rep. Kitty Rhoades, R-Hudson, who co-chairs the Legislature's budget committee, says the state doesn't have the money for anything new.

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