Incumbent state Rep. Kevin Petersen, a Republican who is seeking his third term, faces Democrat Jon Baltmanis in the race for the 40th Assembly District seat.
The County Post asked the candidates 10 questions regarding Wisconsin’s economy, state finances, voter photo ID, public schools and state funding for embryonic stem cell research.
The candidates’s answers will be published in a two-part series. Their answers to the second five questions will appear in next week’s County Post.
What do you think are the top issues facing the citizens of Waupaca County over the next two years?
Petersen: Job creation is the number one issue facing Waupaca County and the state. Jobs pay for necessities such as food and shelter, crucial services like health care and education (both K-12 and higher), which profoundly improves our children’s futures and their job-creating potential.
Jobs create revenue for local, state and federal governments. This revenue pays for essential public services, social safety nets, and balances public budgets. According to the Department of Workforce Development, as of August, Waupaca County’s unemployment rate was 8 percent. That figure does not count individuals who have stopped looking for work or whose unemployment ran out.
Baltmanis: The challenge for the 40th Assembly District is getting through the current world economic crisis with minimum damage to the local economy, infrastructure, services and education. It will take cooperation and creativity. Traditional thinking over the last 20 to 30 years is a part of how we got into the current state of affairs.
I encourage looking at the Wisconsin Way report to create structures in the state and county that will get us to thinking and planning five, 10, 20 years down the road, while at the same time creating a more positive attitude toward “smart” economic development.
What do you think the state government should do to help get Wisconsin’s economy growing again?
Baltmanis: We have to start a process of adding “thinking outside the box” to our planning. Making short-term decisions based on a comprehensive long-term plan is what successful businesses around the world do. Election cycles should not limit government planning. Long-term plans put forth by governments will provide stability for individuals and commerce to use when looking into the future.
Petersen: The state needs to keep out of the way of its businesses. Every mandate, regulation and tax increase takes money out of the hands of employers. These acts siphon away money which could have paid for expansions that create new jobs, money that could have increased salaries keeping the economy strong, and money that could have gone directly into employee benefits.
As a small-business owner, I understand Wisconsin’s challenging business environment. The state needs to cut bureaucratic red tape, eliminate wasteful government spending, and provide investment in worker training along with local business opportunities which attract family supporting jobs.
What do you believe is the most wasteful part of state government and what would you propose in order to change it?
Petersen: Pork projects hidden in the budget such as the Yahara Watershed Project in Dane County ($6.6 million), the Bradley Center in Milwaukee ($5 million), the Myrick Hixon EcoPark in La Crosse ($800,000), the Oshkosh Opera House ($500,000), recycling bins for the town of Wrightstown ($46,000) along with other projects totaling $38 million are earmarks Wisconsin taxpayers are targeted to pay.
I co-sponsored the Earmark Transparency Act in February 2009, which would have prohibited state agencies from submitting a proposal for an earmark or a non-fiscal policy item. Unfortunately, the proposal never made it out of the Democrat-controlled Joint Finance Committee.
Baltmanis: I believe in keeping our communities safe and protecting our residents in their homes, but our rate of incarceration is costing all of us more than other states. Wisconsin currently has more people serving more time than any of the states around us.
This is not wasteful spending, but a portion could be better spent elsewhere. Long-term, we must re-evaluate where we put monies to educate our youth. Do we support our schools and work toward higher graduation rates? Or, do we spend five times as much per individual per year sending them to secondary education in our prisons?
Short term, reforming mandatory sentencing could reduce our current expense of incarceration, since it has not deterred drug possession and distribution felonies. Restoring judicial discretion in sentencing would reduce cost and overcrowding of our prisons. All savings, or cuts, should be reallocated to finance Wisconsin’s K-12+ comprehensive education.
Do you support or oppose a state constitutional amendment to prohibit the transfer of segregated funds, such as the Transportation Fund, into the state’s general operating budget?
Baltmanis: Having watched California and how they have locked up parts of their budgets by use of the infamous “propositions,” resulting in recurring budget crises even when there were no economic meltdowns, I would be concerned heading down this path. I think that Wisconsin should learn from California’s mistakes.
I suggest that we rather put in to practice the practice whereby, if a fund is borrowed from, the legislation creating the transfer includes the payback plan and putting teeth into the legislation creating the “loan.”
Legislators need to be held to a tougher financial responsibility.
Petersen: I support a state constitutional amendment prohibiting the transfer of segregated funds. A June 9, 2009, memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau shows that since taking office, Governor Doyle has raided the following funds by these respective amounts: Transportation – $1.47 billion, Forestry Account – $54.6 million, Petroleum Inspection Fund – $78.1 million, Public Benefits Fund – $102.6 million, and Recycling Fund – $112.8 million.
To prevent future raids, I co-sponsored the Segregated Funds Integrity Act in February 2009. The Democrat-controlled Legislature never allowed the bill to be reviewed. I will bring the bill forward again next session.
Do you support or oppose a state constitutional amendment that would require voters to bring photo ID to the polls?
Petersen: I support requiring voters to show photo ID. The photo ID bill passed by the Legislature and vetoed by Governor Doyle provided exclusions for nursing, retirement, qualified adult family homes and electors protected for domestic abuse.
Identification is required everyday for customary business transactions. Cold medications are kept behind the druggist’s counter and require a photo ID to purchase. Books can not be checked out of the Milwaukee Public Library system without photo ID.
A photo ID law will act as a strong deterrent against voter fraud, which disenfranchises voters and hurts the overall integrity of our elections and democracy.
Baltmanis: I strongly support any moves to make the act of voting less encumbered and complicated. Democracy can only function if more citizens exercise their right to vote. At the same time I believe that all elected officials must work to educate both current and future voters, beginning in primary schools. A knowledgeable, informed and involved voting public is in the interest of all of us.
I see voter IDs as a form of voter intimidation in many communities, including seniors, new citizens and students.
I do not support any form of voter intimidation, including voter IDs.