Four seeking 32nd Assembly seat
The 32nd Assembly District will be getting new representation for the first time since 2002.
Four candidates are running to replace retiring Rep. Thomas Lothian, including his chief of staff, Tyler August of Walworth. August won the Republican primary in September by three votes after a week-long recount.
Doug Harrod of Bloomfield Township was the only Democrat to file for the race. Independents Dan Kilkenny of Delavan and Rick Pappas of Fontana also are on the ticket.
Q: With a projected $2.4 billion state budget deficit, where will the cuts come from and what impact will those have on the people of Wisconsin?
August: The cuts will without a doubt be coming from a variety of places. I believe we need to reform state employees' compensation packages and bring them more in line with what the private sector receives, and that will save the taxpayers quite a bit of money.
We also have to take a look at all of the new programs started in the last budget, and I think our welfare programs need to be more closely scrutinized. Those programs need to have the ultimate goal of people not needing them anymore, and I think the programs have been allowed to become more of a crutch than anything else. I'm not proposing we eliminate those programs, but I do propose going back to when the programs were to help people get back on their feet, not be their sole source of income forever.
Also, as Rep. Lothian's chief of staff, I have practiced fiscal responsibility in our office. This year we are on track to return around 90 percent of our office account to the taxpayers. I think all state offices and departments should strive to operate on as few tax dollars as possible. Zero-based budgeting will help with this, as it will require each department to justify every dollar it spends every year.
Harrod: The cuts must be across the board in all departments to begin to solve the problem with two exceptions: education and health care.
We should be sure to maintain quality education at the current level because if we do not it will just burden property taxes more. Health care programs must be maintained in these difficult economic times. Denying the most vulnerable of health care is simply not morally or ethically proper. We must also work with our congressional representatives and senators to not be 47th out of 50 in Medicare and Medicaid funds. Unless there is a greater improvement in the economy, new programs need to be put on the shelf unless funding can be obtained without raising taxes on the economically stressed middle class.
We need to increase accountability of those who are rewarded with state contracts or provide services to the state. We need to get more "bang for our buck." Personally, I believe there is a significant waste in our budget that could be cleaned up. The overall impact is that people may not get all the services they have in the past until the economy improves. And it will improve.
Q: Is bipartisanship possible, and how would you work to bridge the gap between parties?
August: It is possible, but I'm not willing to leave my principles to do it. There are those within both parties who would balance this budget by raising taxes on a variety of different groups in Wisconsin. I am not one of them. Raising taxes to solve this problem is a non-starter with me.
If a Democrat wanted to work with me on reforming some of the programs and the ways in which government spends money, them I'm all for it. This budget is in bad shape, and I am open to many different ways of solving the problem, except for raising taxes in a recession.
Harrod: One of the main points of our entire campaign cycle has been to advocate for more bipartisanship. I have been to numerous forums during the election cycle and regrettably have witnessed name-calling, divisiveness and blame gaming. It accomplishes little or nothing and simply continues the problem of (not) moving the state forward.
As a coach at the high school level, if you approached your coaching staff and players the same way legislators approach their legislative responsibilities, you would not have much success in improving the lives of our residents in Wisconsin.
In my campaign, I have continually promoted the fact that I can act independently. I am the candidate that has the ability to communicate, cooperate and, if necessary, compromise to move the 32nd District and the state of Wisconsin forward.
Q: Many agree education will see cuts in the next budget. How can we maintain quality education while depleting its financial resources?
August: Frankly, the reason education funding is in danger of seeing cuts is because of the way it was funded in the last budget Gov. (Jim) Doyle signed. In order to start their new programs, legislative Democrats cut general purpose revenue funding for education and then back-filled the K-12 funding with one-time Obama stimulus money. That is irresponsible budgeting because now we are facing a hole in the education funding. That should have never been done.
We need to find ways to not only restore education funding to appropriate levels, but to make sure our school districts get more of the pie. Because of the school-funding formula, our districts are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to getting state education dollars. This results in more of our schools relying for the vast majority of their budgets from the property tax. We need to work to get our schools their share of the state dollars so we can realize some property tax relief in this area.
Harrod: I do not believe that we need to conclude now that cuts will be necessary. Let's examine our projected revenue sources, see where we can institute cuts and see where we can streamline our expenditures by cutting the waste that exists.
As an educator, we need to look hard at how much more we can individually do. I think most educators understand the problems and would be willing to sacrifice the same way many others are sacrificing. I have learned from my 43 years of teaching that our profession gets a lot of attention from the public, many times negative, but I also know the majority of educators are dedicated, hard-working professionals with the goal of helping our students learn and be good citizens in our communities.
Address: W1815 County B, Genoa City.
Job: Teacher at Badger High School
Education: Bachelor's degree from Illinois State University
Community service: Vice president of Genoa City Lions Club; coordinator of Church Garden; mission trips with Immanuel Lutheran Church.
Address: 120 Fox Lane, Walworth.
Job: Chief of staff for Rep. Tom Lothian
Education: Graduated from Big Foot High School and attended UW-Eau Claire and UW-Madison.
Kilkenny, 54, of N3616 Elm Ridge Road, Delavan, is a general practice attorney and serves on the Walworth County Board of Supervisors. He's running as an independent and is the only 32nd candidate with experience in an elected position.
"One thing I agree with Tyler August about is we need fundamental changes in the way we do business in Madison," he said. "That's essentially to get rid of the partisan warfare. I think that can only be done with an independent candidate."
Kilkenny wants to end political bickering and return the government to the people. He said special interests hold too much power in the state Legislature, which has created many of the economical issues Wisconsin faces today.
Kilkenny holds degrees in economics and law from UW-Madison. He has served on the Walworth County Board since 2006 and the Darien Town Board since 2001.
More information can be found at kilkennyforassembly.com.
Pappas, 47, of 543 Akwenasa Way, Fontana, is a small business bookkeeper running as an independent. He strives for a more transparent government with less involvement from special interest groups. If elected, he promises to maintain a daily blog of his activities to keep in touch with constituents.
"I'm pretty much a blank slate when I go to Madison," he said. "I would go up there open-minded with a lot of energy—no preconceived notions, no preconceived ideas of what to do. I think going in there for a first term you basically are just able to be a decision maker."
Pappas believes Wisconsin's government can improve job creation by making the state more competitive than its neighbors. He also said there needs to be a greater level of scrutiny on state spending to get the deficit under control.
Pappas serves on the Lakefront and Harbor Committee, Protection Committee and Board of Review for the village of Fontana. He holds a degree in economics from UW-Madison.
More information about Pappas can be found at rickpappas.com.