MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The Wisconsin State Patrol’s costs to protect the governor, his family and the lieutenant governor have risen about 38 percent in the past three years, according to records Gov. Scott Walker’s office released Friday.
The data shows overall security spending has nearly quadrupled over the past five years, however, due largely to Walker bolstering the number of bodyguards and the patrol deciding to provide security for the lieutenant governor.
The patrol’s Dignitary Protection Unit provides around-the-clock security for Walker, his wife, Tonette, their children and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch as well as visiting dignitaries. According to the records, the unit spent $2.2 million in 2013, up from $1.9 million in 2012 and $1.6 million in 2011, Walker’s first year in office.
That compares with more than $657,000 the unit spent in 2010 and nearly $571,000 in 2009 to protect then-Gov. Jim Doyle and his wife, Jessica. The unit did not protect then-Lt. Gov Barbara Lawton those years.
Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, both Republicans, received death threats amid massive opposition to his signature plan to strip most public workers of nearly all their collective bargaining rights. Walker’s spokeswoman Jocelyn Webster said in an email the unit decided to add protection for Kleefisch because of a “difference in circumstances” from Doyle’s term.
The governor also has dramatically increased the number of troopers in the security unit, driving up costs, the records show. Doyle had four; Walker has 10. They’ve all been promoted from troopers to sergeants, said Peg Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, which runs the patrol, in an email.
Those changes pushed salary expenditures from about $346,000 in 2010 to $1.1 million last year. Schmitt said the increase in the unit’s size has allowed it to provide “enhanced” protection. She declined to elaborate.
Walker faces re-election in November and is a potential presidential contender in 2016. He’s been traveling around the country making appearances and raising money. Webster said Walker’s campaign has reimbursed the state a little more than $65,000 for the use of state vehicles and fuel costs since his gubernatorial term began. Kleefisch’s campaign has paid back $29,000.
A spokesman for Walker’s likely opponent, Democrat Mary Burke, declined to comment.