Jobs top list for candidates in Senate primary

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Jim Leute
Thursday, August 7, 2014

Getting people into family-supporting jobs is a priority for the three Democrats who will square off Tuesday in a primary election for the 15th Senate District.

Rep. Janis Ringhand, first-time candidate Austin Scieszinski and former Assembly Rep. and Speaker Mike Sheridan are vying to advance to the November general election against Republican Brian Fitzgerald.

All four want to take over the seat being vacated by Sen. Tim Cullen of Janesville.

In addition to participating in two public forums, the three Democrats recently responded to a series of questions from The Gazette.

Q: Jobs and the local economy continue to be significant issues. What specifically would you do to boost job creation in the 15th Senate District?

Ringhand: I serve on the Workforce Development Committee, which has established funds for grants to vocational schools that reduce waiting lists for high demand programs, including programs for high school students that introduce industry-related fields.

I supported legislation that funds apprenticeship programs, tuition reimbursement and employer-subsidized employment opportunities for individuals in high poverty areas.

I support our local economy, and I have authored legislation that requires the state to purchase goods made in America, not China.

I will continue to work with all these programs in the future and expand on them as areas of opportunity are identified.

Scieszinski: The economy of the future will be driven by small businesses.

My six-point plan for job creation revolves around small business.

First, establish start-up zones. Second, increase funding to regulatory agencies so they may process claims faster. Third, provide opportunities and outlets for entrepreneurs to get advice and help through the complicated process of starting a business. Fourth, expand the venture capital bill to help small people with big ideas. Fifth, increase the college tuition tax deduction to retain college graduates in Wisconsin. Sixth, continue to support and expand innovation centers like those in Janesville and Whitewater.

Sheridan: I will work with business and labor to market our communities.

Currently, I'm working with individuals interested in extending the Rock County Airport to create a Midwest hub for manufacturing and distribution.

In addition, I am working with a group of business leaders to build prototype engines, which will create high-tech good paying jobs.

During my time in the Legislature, I was helpful in the allocation of resources to improve railroads in southern Wisconsin and $1 billion to improve Interstate 39/90.

I will also continue my efforts to convince General Motors to come back to the 15th Senate District.

Q: Are you 100 percent in favor of the repeal of Act 10. If so, why? Have there been any positive outcomes for the state and its residents since the legislation was enacted?

Ringhand: I am 100 percent in support of repealing Act 10.

Labor unions and employers agreed on benefits and retirement options … as part of employee compensation packages.

I was a member of the labor negotiations team for local labor three different times. We knew what our dollar limit was and worked within those constraints.

There may be some short-term positive outcomes from Act 10. Local governments may realize a one-time gain, but it does not continue … year after year.

Employees see a loss in their benefits and spending power. Plus, the consequences of Act 10 have a devastating effect on worker morale, which impacts our workers, the employers and our community.

Scieszinski: Yes, I am favor of repealing it.

It has caused a schism in our workforce; it has broken up families' economic stability, and it has greatly damaged our education system.

We must support our educators and public workers instead of pulling the rug out from underneath them.

Moreover, protecting the Wisconsin Retirement System is a priority of mine. It is financially sound and more than 99 percent funded. Changing the system is unnecessary and would devastate many retirees and families.

Sheridan: I believe, Act 10 has divided our state, and we need to re-evaluate this policy by bringing people together that are impacted by this issue.

I will call a legislative summit and invite various stakeholders to the table to discuss a fair settlement. The groups will include labor leaders, business leaders, impacted state agencies and workers, local and state officials as well as taxpayers themselves.

By taking this approach, we can establish better working relationships built on trust. In addition to transparent open discussions, there will be a better understanding of what, if any, benefits were gained.

Q: A state commission recently found that Wisconsin will need an additional $2 billion to $7 billion to pay for its transportation needs. How would you propose paying for that? Higher gas taxes or vehicle registration fees? New taxes based on miles traveled? Other ways?

Ringhand: Gov. Walker had a transportation commission study this issue a couple years ago. The results sit on a shelf somewhere and are not being implemented.

There are several different areas that were researched. …We need to revisit the study results and implement a combination of the suggested solutions.

Transportation funds were raided in the past. I voted in favor of a bill that would prohibit raiding designated funds in the future.

Our infrastructure is vital to our economic development efforts. Roads in disrepair will not bring in new business or expansion of existing business.

Scieszinski: Our infrastructure is near the breaking the point, if not already broken, as is the case with many rural roads.

Letting these problems slip by ignored is not an option. We must repair potholes, ensure rural roads remain paved, and guarantee the I-90 expansion occurs on time.

There are a multitude of options on the table. The most sensible one is to index the gas tax to inflation. This method had worked well for over two decades before it was halted.

The solution to this problem will be a multi-tiered one, and several options must be considered.

Sheridan: We need good infrastructure to spur economic development, which will create jobs for the 21st century.

Keeping our federal, state, local and rural roads in safe working order is a high priority.

Our farmers and manufacturers rely on good roads to provide goods and services that feed and supply the world.

Possible funding sources would be to restore gas tax indexing and possible tollways at our borders for out-of-state residents that come to Wisconsin and use our resources.

If we can put Wisconsin back to work, we will have more revenue to pay for our future needs.


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