Q. What relevant experience do you bring to the office you seek?
Serving as state superintendent has been a great way for me to analyze what the state’s role is in serving the public and to make sure that the state takes a proactive, positive role in the lives of our kids. I’ve run a state agency so I understand how state agencies should work in providing these services and in my interactions with the Walker administration, I’ve also seen how a state agency should not work.
In addition I’ve also run things across the state, whether it’s school districts or schools or regional agencies. I’ve run three statewide races. The last time I ran, just over one year ago, I won 70 percent of the vote and won 70 of 72 counties. So the people of the state know me.
As governor, I will focus on solving problems, not picking political fights. I’ve spent most of the last decade running an organization of 400 people, with responsibility over 860,000 students and the 100,000 adults who work with them. I am ready to be Governor on day one, no assembly required.
Q. 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. Name a specific measure you would support that would bring in more money for road projects.
One of my first priorities as Governor will be to solve Wisconsin’s transportation crisis. Our road quality ranks 49th in the country. Towns and villages are returning to gravel and we’re borrowing so much money that my three-year-old grandson will be still be paying for today’s road projects when he’s an adult. Due to Scott Walker’s failure to lead, 5 counties and 18 cities have passed vehicle fees and taxes since 2011 to help cover road maintenance costs because the state has fallen down on the job.
A strong infrastructure is more than just patching potholes; it is key for successful economic development. There are bipartisan, long-term solutions for Wisconsin’s transportation system, but Scott Walker hasn’t shown the political will to get it done. Drawing a line in the sand is not leadership and I believe all options should be on the table.
As Governor, I will:
- Work with both Democrats and Republicans alike to implement a sustainable, long-term fix for how we fund our roads;
- Support Regional Transit Authorities (RTA) that allow local communities to work together to address their transportation needs;
- Invest in local road maintenance;
- Increase funding for public transit;
- Ensure our highways and bridges are no longer a liability, but an asset for bringing new industries and businesses to Wisconsin; and
- Repeal changes made to Wisconsin’s prevailing wage laws that simply take money out of Wisconsin’s workers pockets.
Q. 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?
Since Gov. Walker took office, over 1+ million Wisconsinites have voted to increase their own property taxes to pay for their public schools. We clearly have a problem.
My past state budget requests as State Superintendent, as well as the request I am currently working on, provide an extra lift to the students and districts who need a bit more to succeed. For the extra lift, the general aid formula will weight students living in poverty and the per-pupil categorical aid will be weighted for foster kids, English learners and students struggling with high poverty. Essentially, we are providing more resources to kids and districts who need our help.
My Fair Funding for our Future plan has consistently been used as the blueprint for school finance reform. It focuses on:
* Revenue limit equity and sustainable increases;
* Minimum aid for all districts;
* Weighting funding for students from low-income families, students with disabilities, and English learners; and
* Thawing the decade-long freeze on our primary Special Education aid.
Even this hostile Legislature has adopted some of my recommendations, like expanding sparsity aid for rural districts, increasing funds for summer school, and upping the reimbursement for transportation. However, if the Legislature had adopted my last four budgets, district revenue limits would be over $1,600 more per student, without any referenda needing to be passed.
Q. What makes you the best candidate to represent your district?
I’ve lived in Wisconsin my whole life, but I’ve had more than a few moments in the last eight years where I’ve said aloud, “This is not the Wisconsin I love.” After I won my third election for State Superintendent with over 70% of the vote, I finally said “Enough is enough, I know I can fix this.” I believe that we are stronger when we look out for each other. I also believe that what’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state and our democracy. I know that as Governor, there is so much more I can do to help build a stronger and brighter future for Wisconsin.
I’ve been elected State Superintendent three times by a coalition of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans because I know how to treat my political opponents with respect without sacrificing my progressive values. My wife, Kathy, and I have lived and worked across Wisconsin raising our family in Tomah, Oakfield, Oshkosh and Verona. As State Superintendent, I’ve worked across party lines to get things done for our kids. As governor, I will use these relationships and these skills to end the divisiveness that has consumed our state. I’ll be focused on solving problems, not picking political fights.
Q. 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?
Education: I believe that what is best for our kids is best for our state.
Since 2011, over 1+ million Wisconsinites have voted to increase their own taxes to pay for their public schools, because Scott Walker failed to adequately fund them. Not only are your taxes going up, but because of the cuts our kids are missing out on critical opportunities due to school closures, staff lay-offs, limited courses and outdated facilities and materials.
I will make the strongest investment in early childhood education of any Governor in Wisconsin’s history. It’s simply unacceptable that Wisconsin’s poorest and most impoverished zip code does not have one high quality early childhood facility. I’ll fully fund our schools and I can do it on day one with my Fair Funding for our Future plan. It’s been endorsed by educators and school boards across Wisconsin and it ensures that every kid who needs an extra lift, gets an extra lift. Had my plan been enacted back at the beginning of Governor Walker’s administration, our public schools would have an additional $1600/student.
Finally, we must make stronger investments in higher education. Gov. Walker has cut more from UW than any other Governor in Wisconsin history and we see the impacts already playing out with reduced classes, faculty and staff fleeing our state and increased dependence on tuition to help cover costs. Education is the key to a skilled workforce and a robust and innovative economy.
Wisconsin’s transportation crisis: This is a day one priority for me.
Wisconsin’s roads and bridges rank some of the worst in the country. Not only is this a quality of life issue, but it’s a tremendous safety issue. Drawing a line in the sand is not leadership, and that’s exactly what Governor Walker has elected to do. Throughout my career, I’ve shown that I can work across the aisle, even on some of our most controversial
issues like school vouchers, to find common ground and get things done. Speaker Vos has indicated a willingness to get this done and I believe with the right leadership in the Governor’s office we can find a solution. Our infrastructure should be an asset, not a liability. It’s a critical component for family supporting jobs and bringing new businesses and industries to Wisconsin.
Healthcare: Healthcare is a right, period.
Everywhere I go, I continue to hear about the high cost of health insurance. Too many Wisconsinites still lack adequate and affordable health care coverage, if any at all. There’s a reason that folks in Minnesota pay half the cost of what Wisconsinites do for health insurance, for the same coverage. Wages are down and with higher healthcare costs, families have to do more and more with less.
As Governor, I will take immediate action to accept the federal Medicaid expansion dollars which would insure thousands more Wisconsinites who are struggling to find affordable health insurance. We must stabilize health insurance markets and bring down costs – including prescription drug prices. Investing in preventive health programs, especially for Wisconsin women, that have been defunded over the last seven years will be a critical part of my administration. Having to drive four hours round-trip for a mammogram, simply isn’t acceptable. Finally, we must extend protections for Wisconsinites with pre-existing health conditions. It is estimated that half of Wisconsinites have some kind of pre-existing health condition like cancer, diabetes, a heart condition, obesity or depression. As a cancer survivor myself, I know the realities that come with having a pre-existing health condition. No one should ever lose their coverage because they simply cost insurance companies “too much money.” It’s wrong and unlike Governor Walker, I’m not afraid to say it.