What relevant experience do you bring to the office you seek?
I’ve been very grateful to be a small business owner and an attorney in Eau Claire for over 25 years. I’ve also served on the Eau Claire City Council, and have been honored to have been elected, and re-elected, to the Wisconsin State Assembly since 2012. From my private sector experience, I understand the needs and challenges small businesses face, and how important my responsibilities to my employees and clients must be taken.
As for my public sector experience, I’m finishing my second term in the Assembly, and have worked with both Republicans and Democrats on issues of importance to Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley. I’ve fought to get more money for public schools, expand access to affordable health care, pushed to help parents pay for high quality day care, rebuild our roads and bridges and protect our environment and green spaces for hunting, fishing and tourism.
I’m also very proud of the work that I did to make construction of the Confluence Center a reality. I brought together Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature to work with local elected officials, economic development professionals and university administration and staff to bring state funding to a project that will continue to revitalize Eau Claire’s downtown. My work has shown that creating strong public-private partnerships is the future with regard to developing our state. If I have the honor of being re-elected, I will take all of these experiences and continue to bring Chippewa Valley common sense to Madison.
The American Society of Civil Engineers says Wisconsin motorists spend $2.0-billion per year in costs from driving on roads in need of repairs. What are the ways you would help find funding for the rebuilding of this state?
Currently, budget experts in the Legislature tell us Wisconsin faces a $939 million shortfall in our budget simply to maintain our current spending on transportation. Wisconsin’s roads rank among the worst in the nation. Any funding “saved” by not properly repairing or replacing inadequate roads and bridges is dwarfed by the millions of dollars it currently costs drivers and businesses to pay for premature vehicle wear and tear, accidents and traffic congestion. Governor Walker and Republicans in the Legislature have been completely unreasonable on this issue, and seem to be out-of-touch with the challenges our poor roads pose to drivers throughout the state. We have to evaluate every option for bringing in revenue that can fund a smart, targeted and rapid reconstruction of our transportation infrastructure.
State aid to local school districts has been reduced, or remained flat for the last few years. Leaders of local school districts say that has resulted in stagnant teacher pay and reductions in educational programs that students need and want. Some worry that we are losing our best and brightest teachers to neighboring states. So many local school districts are now going to voters, asking them to pass referendums that would allow these schools to raise local property taxes to make up the difference. In your opinion, is this the best and most fair way to fund these projects? If so, what is the role of the state to provide further assistance.? If not, what, specifically, would you do to provide more state aid to local schools and where would that money come from?
Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers, himself a former teacher, principal and school district administrator, has put forward an education plan I support called Fair Funding for Our Future. It redirects more funding directly to school districts, including Eau Claire’s, and makes sure that every child in Wisconsin, regardless of the school they attend, is receiving the financial support that they deserve. It restores some of the ability of school districts to use their levy authority to increase their schools’ budgets if they choose, while ensuring that property taxpayers’ money is properly spent. This will help to make sure that great teachers are paid like the professionals they are, and students can access all the classes they need to succeed in life.
Under the Wisconsin State Constitution, our state government is required to adequately fund our public schools. Community after community have held referenda to use their local taxes to pay for their schools’ operations, signaling a complete failure on the part of the state government to fulfill its duties under the State Constitution. Governor Walker and Republicans in the Legislature have been completely unreasonable and unwilling to work in a bipartisan manner to fix our school funding system, and have been dishonest about how much funding they’ve taken away from our public schools and handed over to private, unaccountable voucher schools. We can’t afford to let a single child slip behind if our state is to compete in our increasingly global economy.
What makes you the best candidate to represent your district?
I was born and raised in Eau Claire, and after leaving to go to college and law school, returned as soon as I could to start a business and raise a family. The people who have elected me are not just my constituents, they are my co-workers, friends and family. I know the challenges we face in revitalizing Eau Claire to attract, and create, good jobs, how we need a strong regional approach to transportation to further connect us with the Twin Cities region, and that government can play a role in helping out hard working citizens when they need a hand. I bring my love for my hometown, and the understanding of the strengths and needs of its people, down to Madison to fight for them. My connection to Eau Claire is needed in a Capitol that’s often filled with unreasonable, out-of-touch career politicians focused on looking for their next job, and not creating jobs for the people back home.
What do you think should be the top priorities for the state and your area over the next decade? If elected to office, how would you advance those priorities?
I strongly believe in providing enough funding to make Wisconsin’s public schools the best in the nation. That includes not just our K-12 schools, but our state’s colleges and universities. The Wisconsin Technology Council says that when a kindergartener today eventually enters the workforce, 62% of Wisconsin’s jobs will require a post-secondary degree. We need to have the best K-12 schools we can so that our children enter technical colleges, four-year colleges and universities ready to learn the cutting edge technologies and skills that will build the best workforce in the nation. We can’t allow Governor Walker to keep slashing our education budgets or we’re sowing the seeds of economic disaster for our next generation.
Governor Walker has made Wisconsin the only state in the country that participates in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to provide health care to the uninsured, but doesn’t take back any of the taxes we send to the federal government to pay for it. By the end of 2017, Wisconsin taxpayers will have paid $678 million more in state taxes to pay for the ACA than if Governor Walker had just asked to have our own federal taxes given back to us. This matters to all of us, not just the uninsured. The more people we have insured, the healthier our population is. The healthier our population is, the fewer health care services they need. The fewer health care services they need, the less our health care system costs, and that not only makes everyone healthier, but brings down insurance premiums and health care costs for everyone. We need to get our federal taxes back to pay for health care here in Wisconsin.
Lastly, we need to have a tax code that rewards working people, and not the ultra-wealthy. Currently, Governor Walker has championed tax cuts which gives away hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts to a small group of rich people, while leaving the rest of us to pay for our public schools and libraries, police and firefighters, roads and bridges, state parks, water and sewer systems, and everything else that takes state taxes to operate.
For the last five years, state government has operated to serve the wealthy, not the taxpayers. Policy is often simply payback to large campaign contributors. Governor Walker and his legislators are out-of-touch with the lives of everyday, working people. I’ll continue to represent the taxpayers, and not the wealthy special interests, if I’m re-elected to the Legislature.
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