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Doyle says looming deficit will impact pay hike for DAs

With a $3 billion state deficit looming, Gov. Jim Doyle says he cannot see a clear and compelling need for an above-average hike in prosecutors' salaries.

The Association of State Prosecutors says the average assistant district attorney has only gotten a 1 percent annual raise since 2001.

They say low pay and growing workloads are why 246 assistant DA's have quit in the last seven years for a turnover rate of 75 percent.

They used to be county employees, but they became state employees in the early 1990s so salaries could be kept up in rural areas.

An audit last year said the state needed to hire 117 more prosecutors to keep justice from slipping.

In the state's largest county, Milwaukee DA John Chisholm says 10 percent of his 123 prosecutors have only been on the job since May.

He says the turnover results in too much inexperience and it could threaten 20 years of programs and progress.

Milwaukee's top-rated domestic violence unit has 11 prosecutors, but nine are in danger of losing their federal funding.

Chisholm says he could lose up to 12 assistant DA's by next spring, because a federal grant program has been slashed.

The prosecutors' association accused the state of refusing to bargain with them. But state officials deny it. They say they're willing to go back to the table at any time.