How much does a special election cost vs. cost for lawmakers to - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

How much does a special election cost vs. cost for lawmakers to be in session

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MADISON (WKOW) --- For months Governor Scott Walker has refused to call special elections arguing it would be too costly for taxpayers, however just how much would a special election cost?

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell estimates to hold a special election for the 42nd Assembly district would cost about $200,000 and about $80,000 to fill the 1st Senate district. These estimated were determineed by the number of polling places that would need to open, costs of ballots and paying election staff.

"The legislature will be adjourned before a special election is held so people would have to run essentially at the same time be running for the fall election,” said Walker. “It’s just a waste of taxpayer money.”

While the governor continues to push back on calling a special election, it also costs money to bring lawmakers back to take a vote. GOP lawmakers still plan to hold a committee hearing Wednesday on a proposed bill that would determin that special legislative elections cannot be held after the April spring elections in even-numbered years and would have to be called by early December in the year prior. But it's still a price taxpayers are paying to bring lawmakers back to consider this.

Our estimates gathered from Senate and Assembly staff show it would cost about $12,874 per session day for the assembly to meet. Some lawmakers stay overnight and others go back to their districts.

65 (overnight)                               @ $157.00     $10,205.00

34 (non overnight)                        @ $78.50        $ 2,669.00

TOTAL                                      $12,874.00 / per session day

For the Senate it costs on average about $3,680 per session day to meet on any given day. Chief Clerk & Director of Senate Operations Jeffrey Rank said, “Senators’ per diems are anywhere between $88 - $115 per day, depending on how much they requested at the beginning of session, when they must choose their per diem rate for the session.”

The grand total for both the Assembly and Senate to hold a session day is $16,554. Rank says one thing that is left out of the grand cost is how much paper is printed on any given session day.

“Republicans only want the facts that fit their narrative and the fact that they call us into a special session there is an expense to the taxpayers for bringing us into special session for the days that we are here,” said Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Schilling (D-La Crosse).

While special elections are costly, McDonnell argues the money spent to have lawmakers return to Madison for session could be used towards holding special elections instead.

“I think they would pay anything to not have the seats come up right now,” said McDonnell.

“They're terrified that they're going to lose the seats. They lost one up north in the senate district you lose one or two more senate seats and you don't control the agenda completely.”

Democrats also argue if the governor called a special session just 4 days after the vacancies were permanent both districts would have been on the April 3rd ballot.

An analysis from WisContext shows governor Walker is close to breaking a record for leaving legislative seats open this long. Wiscontext reported that “special elections in Wisconsin from 1971 through January 2018 did not turn up a single instance when a governor left a seat unoccupied for more than a year until the vacancies of Frank Lasee and Keith Ripp.”

Typically most governors call them fairly quickly. According to Wiscontext this marks the longest any county has been without representation since 1971.

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