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State Assembly, Senate candidates discuss ag issues

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Gina Duwe
August 27, 2014

JANESVILLE—Funding for local road repairs and raw milk sales were among topics 10 candidates discussed at a forum Wednesday night that focused on agricultural and environmental issues.

The Ag Business Council of Rock County and the Rock County Farm Bureau sponsored the outdoor event at Arndt Farms south of Janesville. More than 50 people attended.

Candidates who participated include:

--11th Senate: Rep. Steve Nass, R-La Grange; Democrat Dan Kilkenny

--15th Senate: Rep. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville; Republican Brian Fitzgerald

--31st Assembly: Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton

--43rd Assembly: Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Milton; Republican Leon Hebert

--44th Assembly: Rep. Debra Kolste, D-Janesville; Republican Jacob Dorsey

--45th Assembly: Democrat Mark Spreitzer

WCLO Radio's Tim Bremel posed questions to the candidates involved in each individual race, so not all candidates answered all questions. Candidates were, however, given an opportunity to speak to any question at the forum's end.

Here is what they had to say on a few topics:

Q: Do you support the direct sale of raw milk to consumers?

A: Kilkenny: “I love it,” he said.

He said he enjoys getting out to his friend's farm where he can drink a half-gallon of it at a time.

“I sure would like people to be able to eat food that they like and want,” he said, though he understands why milk is pasteurized and the health risks involved. “I think people should have that choice. We just need to make sure it's extremely safe, a lot of testing.”

Nass: He voted “yes” for a bill in a previous session because, “it had, I believe, enough rules and regulations in place to protect the people.”

The bill in the last session, he said, was flawed and did not have those protections. With the right protections, he said, he could support a possible bill.

Jorgensen: He said he voted “no” at the committee level, despite drinking raw milk while growing up on a dairy farm.

“Wisconsin is America's Dairyland. … If we had one outbreak, just one, somebody got sick, somebody died, where we stand in the world of dairy, we would fall all the way to the bottom,” he said.

Existing law does allow consumers to buy a gallon of raw milk under incidental sales, he said. Unless his concerns are met, he would vote no again.

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Q: Do you agree local road aids need to be increased, and if so, how do you propose ensuring that these aids are increased to meet the needs of local governments?

A: Dorsey: “I do think we need to increase funding to repair our roads and maintain them, at the least,” he said. “I don't want to do this by raising taxes. I think taxes are high enough. I think we should look to our spending, and cut the pork, and cut the fat.”

Kolste: She is a member of the transportation committee, and members received a book describing the coming crisis and ways to increase funding.

“We didn't discuss one of them,” she said. “There's been lots of proposals. They need to be talked about—increasing the gas tax, indexing the gas tax, there's registration fees.”

Toll roads probably aren't an option because the state is in crisis mode, she said.

“We have to do something, we have to have a discussion, and there's lots of different things on the table, but it needs to be had.”

Nass: “I first must be comfortable with what the people want to do, and that's all of you—if you want to put up toll booths, then I think the Legislature's got to know that," he said. "That's a mixed bag right now."

Nass said he is against increasing the gas tax, and he would prefer to take care of existing roads before building more for convenience.

Fitzgerald: As a Janesville City Council member, he explained the council's vote this week to hold a November referendum to pay for street repairs. The city should be maintaining 12 to 15 miles of road annually, but it can only afford six miles, he said.

Spreitzer: Nearly every community is unable to keep up with road maintenance, which creates more cost in the long term because fixing is cheaper than rebuilding, he said.

“We need to come up with a funding solution very soon. This is an urgent issue,” he said, adding he's not wedded to a particular proposal.

Spreitzer also said because of privacy concerns, he is against a proposal to tax based on the number of miles driven.

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Q: Wisconsin's livestock siting law was passed in 2003. Do you agree with the legislative intent of this law and support its continued use?

A: Jorgensen: “It was a very complex issue, and it's been going great,” he said. “The big thing is to keep listening.”

The landscape is always changing, he said, and ag issues don't get too partisan, which is good.

“If there's anything to be changed, let's take a look at it and see what we can do,” he said.

Hebert: He said he had never heard of the question and didn't feel as though he should answer it.



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