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80th candidates talk education and the economy

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GINA R. HEINE
October 23, 2008

Incumbent Rep. Brett Davis, R-Oregon, said his proposed solutions to state issues would put more money into people’s pockets than his opponent’s.


Challenger John Waelti, a Democrat from Monroe, said he would bring a lifetime of varied experience to the office instead of a career politician.


Waelti is facing Davis, a two-term Assemblyman, in the 80th District race on Nov. 4.


At 72, Waelti’s background includes growing up on a farm, enlisting in the Marines, working as an economist and being involved in government at many levels, he said, “in contrast to my opponent who has done nothing but be a politician or work for one.”


But Davis said the solutions Waelti is supporting would lead to more government-run health care programs, policies people can’t afford and increased sales tax for more programs.


“The solutions I’m looking for now are ways to put more money in people’s pockets,” Davis said. “Social Security checks are not rising as fast as what our expenses are around us, people’s incomes are not rising as (fast as expenses).”


Education

Davis, who serves as the chairman of the Assembly Committee on Education, is proposing a K-12 finance reform plan.


Davis proposes relying less on property taxes by diversifying funding sources such as including sales tax revenues, and he proposes aligning revenue caps with the qualified economic offer for teacher contracts. Changes would be approved through regional referendums, he said.


When it comes to assessing students, some districts that buy additional tests such as Measures of Academic Progress have it right, and the state has it wrong, Davis said. The state’s Wisconsin Knowledge Concepts Examination is inefficient because it takes six months to see results. He proposes speeding up the return time to a couple weeks or partnering with districts for more efficient testing.


Both candidates agree school financing needs to change so districts aren’t going to referendum every few years to maintain operating expenses.


Waelti said he wants the funding formula “reviewed, revised and reformed” to make sure adequate revenue is going into public education.


Waelti said stakeholders need to be involved so areas of disagreement are ironed out.


“We need to put the best ideas together and put something together in a package that can pass legislative muster,” he said.


Waelti said he would support public education funding because that can be a tempting cut during budget shortfalls.


“We need to close tax loopholes to make sure everyone’s paying their fair share,” he said.


Economy

In the short term, the state should provide more funding for the Energy Independence Grant and Loan program and Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Waelti said.


In the long term, state universities need to research and be a leader in renewable energy, and agriculture and health care need to remain strong, he said.


“I would like to see more of these biotech research firms located in the 80th District,” Waelti said.


Davis said he pushes for “green-collar jobs” to locate in the area, and the state needs to provide incentives for small businesses to grow.


In the short term, local government and business leaders need to diversify the area economy in light of General Motors layoff announcements in Janesville, he said.


BIOS

Brett Davis


Age: 32


Address: 1420 Ravenoaks Trail, Oregon.


Job: State Assemblyman


Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration from UW-Oshkosh in 1999; 2006 graduate of the Green County Leaders Program.


Community service: Board member of Wisconsin Literacy Inc., member of the Oregon-Brooklyn Lion’s Club, Oregon Area Chamber of Commerce (board of directors), Monroe Noon Optimists, Monroe Kiwanis, Green County Conservation League, Rock Riverfront Advisory Board, Green County Farm Bureau; Green, Rock and Dane County Republican Party.


Elected posts: State Representative for the 80th District, elected in November 2004 and 2006.


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John Waelti


Age: 72


Address: 1800 21st Ave., Monroe.


Job: Retired economist


Education: Bachelor’s degree from UW-Madison, master’s degree in economics from University of Arizona-Tucson and doctorate from University of California-Berkley.


Community service: Member of town of Monroe smart growth committee, Turner Hall of Monroe board of directors, Southwest Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, numerous local committees.


Elected posts: Monroe School Board, 2005-08.



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