Knilans, Kolste disagree on most issues at forum
JANESVILLE The two candidates for the 44th Assembly District agreed on very little Monday, and it was that vast disagreement that provided the one thing they both agreed upon.
The voters in the district that represents most of Janesville will have a very clear choice on Nov. 6, Deb Kolste and Rep. Joe Knilans said at a forum sponsored by the Janesville League of Women Voters, Forward Janesville and JATV.
Monday's forum had been rescheduled from Oct. 2 after Knilans said he would not be able to meet the commitment he made weeks earlier. At the time, Knilans said he would not be able to attend because he had another campaign-related event that same night.
Asked again Monday for the specifics of that event and where it took place, Knilans would go no further than to reiterate that it was a campaign-related event.
Both candidates were asked more than 20 questions Monday before a capacity crowd at Hedberg Public Library in Janesville. Most centered on jobs, education, health care and a GOP-supported state budget bill that cut public union rights.
One question asked what the state's role should be in attracting businesses and workers to Wisconsin.
Kolste, a Democrat, said the state has made the mistake of cutting education to channel funding to businesses through corporate tax breaks, a strategy she said one national conservative foundation has found to be ineffective for job creation.
Knilans, a Republican, said the vast majority of tax credits are aimed at small businesses. Evidence of their success has been seen in Rock County, which he said has experienced $600 million in new business investment, 1,600 new jobs and a five-percentage-point drop in unemployment since he was sworn in January 2010.
Kolste said she would make education and its funding a top priority. As a result of the recent budget bill, education funding was cut drastically, 2,300 teachers left the state, even more retired and classrooms are now grossly overcrowded.
Knilans said he would like to see education reforms that allow districts to clean up "toxic" classroom environments in which a few students are routinely allowed to disrupt the education of all other students.
On health care, Knilans said the national Affordable Care Act is bad legislation that the state is right not to follow. He said doctors have told him that the law, also referred to as "Obamacare," will force them to retire because their wages will be cut dramatically.
Kolste said it's reprehensible that the state is not complying with the act, which provides for health care exchanges she said are the perfect blend of capitalism and consumerism. In addition, she said the act would provide health care to people with no other options.
In closing, Knilans said he has forged relationships in Madison and has authored legislation supported by both parties that benefits the Janesville area. He said he would continue to work for local taxpayers, not special interests, and make sure the state lives within its means.
Kolste said Knilans voted along his party lines 99.48 percent of the time. She said she has a history through community service, business ownership and as president of the Janesville School Board of building consensus among differing opinions. If elected, she said she would be the collective voice of Janesville in Madison.