Jodi Emerson

Q. What relevant experience do you bring to the office you seek?
For the past five years, I have worked worked at an anti-human trafficking organization and as part of that work, I worked on public policy. I worked with state legislators to pass seven bills on a bipartisan basis during that time. I have a proven track record of writing, advocating for and passing legislation. I am the candidate who has already built relationships with legislators and their staff from all over the state and I can get to work on day one for the people of the 91st Assembly District.

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.
I believe one of the issues with funding our roads is that the increase in vehicle efficiency has not kept up with the gas tax. Vehicles today are getting better mileage regardless of type of engine but our funding sources have not changed. Our gas taxes have remained unchanged for 12 years, and during that time technology and cars have changed in ways that allow for more miles driven on the same gallon of gas, thereby reducing the amount of money available for road repairs. Last year, Governor Walker added registration fees for hybrid and electric vehicles and I believe that is a good start toward generating more money for roads. However, more must be done. We need to look at new ideas for new technologies, and that includes how we fund our roads. In addition for the funding source, we also need to look at the priority of road construction and repairs. Roads are being expanded and fixed to accommodate the building of the Foxconn campus. Meanwhile, bridges have been closed in the Chippewa Valley because there isn’t enough money to replace them. The state of Wisconsin seems to be able to find money when it fits with the governor’s business priorities, but he doesn’t seem to be working for the average citizen of Wisconsin when it comes to finding ways to pay for much-needed road repairs. As an example, the state recently shifted $90 million in funding designated to fix local roads across the state to pay for projects related to the controversial Foxconn development in Racine County the governor backs.

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?
There are several options state leaders should consider when dealing with funding issues our local school districts face. The first action state legislators should take regarding schools is to repeal levy limits and allow local governmental units to be able to raise taxes as needed. We need to make sure that school boards, city councils and county boards across Wisconsin have the local control they need to do the job we have entrusted them with. We need to re-examine our funding system for public schools. School districts such as Eau Claire, which were mindful of how much taxpayers were charged in the past, have been punished with lower amounts of state aid compared to districts of similar size such as La Crosse, which was spending more on students’ educations at the time spending limits were imposed. Our current system for funding schools leads to unequal educational opportunities depending on where students live, and that must be changed to better ensure a more equal learning environment for all. We also must stop funding vouchers schools at their current level, which continues to grow. I have absolutely no problem with private schools, but I do not think it is in the state’s best interest to use public money to fund private schools. Public dollars need to fund public schools. Currently in Eau Claire, over $1 million goes to private schools, money that has been diverted from our public schools’ budget. That money would go a long way toward dealing with some of the current budget struggles the Eau Claire school district faces. Another problem is the lack of respect for educators since Governor Walker took office. Teachers began receiving less public support after the passage of with Act 10 in 2011, but this issue is about more than Act 10. It’s about making sure that people and their concerns are being heard, especially when it comes to their career. Many teachers (or students who would like to enter the teaching profession) look to work in other states simply because of the way our state government treats educators now.

Q. What makes you the best candidate to represent your district?
I am a lifelong resident of Eau Claire and one who has been quite active and involved in numerous community volunteer opportunities in the community. I believe I can best represent the broad spectrum of people in Eau Claire because through my experiences I have gotten to know a wide variety of people and their concerns, everyone from business owners with vast financial resources to people who are experiencing homelessness and have limited financial resources. I understand that to truly represent the full community, you need to know the community so that they feel comfortable sharing their struggles and triumphs with you. Enacting policies based on learning issues facing people and responding to the challenges they are experiencing is the best way to govern.

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? 
I think the first and most important piece of legislation that needs to be addressed in this upcoming legislative session would be changing our voting districts. We need a fair and equitable way to determine which voters belongs in which districts so that everyone’s vote counts equally. This issue is core to a democracy and changes must be made to ensure a more fair process is in place before 2020. Another top legislative priority is fixing our healthcare system. We need to find a fair way to make sure that everyone has access to healthcare and that it is affordable. Opening up a state marketplace for the Affordable Care Act and accepting the federal Medicaid money is a huge step forward toward making sure that everyone in our state can live healthy and productive lives. Addressing health care also includes making sure that we have adequate mental health providers. Making sure that healthcare providers are dealing with mental health concerns, and not the criminal justice system not only is a medically sound approach but is also the humane and fiscally responsible thing to do. Getting someone the mental health care they need and deserve not only potentially keeps them out of the criminal justice system but keeps them alive. We also need to restore local control to our local governmental entities. I am disappointed that the state of Wisconsin has passed laws that mean a city or county cannot pass living wage laws, that they have taken away an town or county’s ability to set environmental standards that are above those of the rest of the state to protect air, land and water in their own area and most of all, I am disappointed the state doesn’t allow local governing boards to assess tax situations as called for in their area. How is a local school board supposed to be able to attract educators when their hands are tied by levy limits? We need to give the power to those governing bodies to be able to govern in the way they best see fit.

WQOW Staff

WQOW Staff

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