The other day we learned that the Wisconsin GOP’s scheme to meddle in Dem primaries to delay the recall elections — a last ditch effort to stave off defeat — could cost Wisconsin taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

Well, now the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal has done some more digging and found that the price tag for taxpayers is actually going to be closer to half a million:

A plan by Republicans to run fake Democratic candidates in this summer’s recall elections would cost taxpayers upward of $428,000, according to election clerks.

In one Senate district alone, the cost would top $100,000, interviews with county and municipal clerks show...

Even if Republicans back off their plans in some of the districts, taxpayers are all but guaranteed to have to pay the costs of the primary, because Democrats now plan to run multiple candidates in order to guarantee all the recall elections are held on the same day. Tuesday is the filing deadline...

Election clerks estimate the cost of a Democratic primary in the districts of the recalled GOP lawmakers as follows: Sen. Rob Cowles of Allouez, $86,000; Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills, $69,700; Sen. Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls, $27,000; Sen. Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac, $84,200; Sen. Dan Kapanke of LaCrosse, $101,000; and Sen. Luther Olsen of Ripon, $60,200.

And as Eric Kleefeld points out, this is only a partial estimate. It’s important to restate that the number one rationale Wisconsin Republicans offered for taking away public employee bargaining rights — which got this whole battle started — is that it was necessary to protect Wisconsin taxpayers. Scott Walker himself claimed at the height of this battle that his proposal would protect the “millions of taxpayers from all across this state who know we’re doing the right thing.”

Now that Wisconsin GOP state senators are staring into the recall abyss, however, suddenly those millions of taxpayers are not all that high up on their list of concerns.

Let’s be as clear as possible about this: Republicans are pursuing this scheme for one reason, and one reason only: It is their best chance of hanging on to the state senate. If they were not at risk of losing it, this money would not have to be spent.

And no, it doesn’t matter that the cost might get driven up a bit because Dems are retaliating with a plan of their own. (They are running extra Democrats in Dem primaries in all the six districts currently held by Republicans to ensure that all the general recall elections are held on the same day.) The GOP hatched its scheme first; it is far less defensible, because it constitutes meddling in the other party’s primary; their scheme is responsible for the vast majority of the costs; and Dems would shelve their plan tomorrow if the GOP agreed to do the same.

It’s true that recall elections are going to cost taxpayers money no matter what. But Dems secured these elections through the arduous collection of tens of thousands of signatures — getting past hurdles which are meant to ensure that there’s genuine and widespread public support for holding them. By contrast, the GOP plan has not been subjected to the judgment of Wisconsinites.

And now we learn that it will gouge Wisconsin taxpayers — the same ones Wisconsin Republicans purported to represent when they rolled back public employee bargaining rights — to the tune of as much as half a million dollars.