Citing personal safety concerns, Gov. Scott Walker has sharply increased the amount the state is paying to protect him and his family, boosting the budget for his security detail by 239 percent in his term.
Records show taxpayers spent more than $2.23 million in 2013 for the 10 state troopers who protect Walker and his family, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and dignitaries from other states and countries who visit Wisconsin. That was up from $657,457 paid out by Gov. Jim Doyle on security during his last year in office in 2010.
A large part of the increase in spending on security came as a result of Walker’s decision to add five members to the Dignitary Protection Unit, the official name of the security team, in the wake of the 2011 protests over his plan to curtail collective bargaining for most public employees.
The first-term governor sparked protests around the state with his proposal. Walker and Kleefisch were the target of death threats during the frenzied debate over the bill.
“Have you been asleep for the past three years?” Walker said during a stop in New Berlin on Tuesday when pressed about his rising security budget.
But that’s not been the only factor driving up security costs. Records show that:
• Taxpayers have paid some $978,000 to provide security for Walker’s home in Wauwatosa — a figure that continues to rise sharply even though his two sons are in college and the governor has said he’s spending more nights at the executive residence in Maple Bluff.
• Spending on items designated “other expenses” has increased by 716 percent in the past five years, with annual $600 clothing allowances for the security team; $975 bullet-resistant vests and iPads and iPad accessories for all 10 bodyguards; a safe and car tinting.
• The number of out-of-state trips for which security has accompanied Walker has increased as his national profile rises and he is increasingly seen as a possible 2016 presidential contender. In 2011, he had state-funded security for 29 trips outside Wisconsin, a number that had risen to 47 by 2013.
After the Journal Sentinel asked the governor about his security expenses, his office released the records to other news outlets on Friday afternoon.