Isthmus sent the six candidates for the July 12 Democratic primary for the 48th Assembly seat questions about why they're running for office and what they hope to accomplish. Here is what they had to say.
Current employment: Chief of Staff to Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine)
Campaign website: vickyforassembly.com
Relevant experience (in 75 words or less): Chief of Staff to key member of Assembly Democratic team. Public interest attorney who provided free legal services to Dane County residents with employment and public benefit problems. Organizer, policy advocate and coalition builder at statewide non-profit Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. Member, Madison Economic Development Committee Former chair, Madison Affirmative Action Commission
Please answer the following questions in 200 words or less.
1. Why are you running for the Assembly seat?
I wake up every single morning motivated to advocate for workers and families who are struggling to make ends meet in a changing global economy and in historically challenged times in our state. The number of families who are having a hard time getting by is growing, and we risk losing the middle class entirely and undoing all of the progress our great state has made in recent years to maintain excellent schools, grow an unparalleled workforce, and ensure prosperity for all of our state's residents.
I am running for the state Assembly to put my dozen-plus years of experience as a public interest attorney, policy advocate, organizer and legislative staffer to work as a progressive champion for District 48's residents. There is so much at stake right now for working families, our schools and small businesses. I have spent my career fighting for them at the local and state levels, as well as at a statewide non-profit. I have the experience needed to hit the ground running in the Capitol on day one.
2. If elected, what will be your priorities for the district?
1. Education: I will be a tireless champion for our public schools, our teachers & school staff, and for the kids they dedicate themselves to serving. In a crowded field of candidates, I have been endorsed by the entire Madison Metropolitan School Board, demonstrating my proven track record on education issues and my potential for legislative success in the Assembly.
2. Working families: I have spent my entire career advocating for policies that help Wisconsin's families make ends meet in the short-term and thrive in the future. I will work to preserve health care and child care programs, expand access to higher education (especially technical college), work to expand transit options, and work to create family-supporting jobs.
3. Fair Taxation: I have spent years working on making our tax system more progressive. To invest in education and prosperity pathways for working families, we must reform our tax system by closing the $1-billion-year tax gap, close corporate tax loopholes, and ask the über-rich to pay more.
3. Explain how, as a member of the minority, you can be effective in fighting against the Republican agenda?
In the minority, 'effectiveness' is measured not necessarily by passage of legislation. I will articulate the problems with the Republican agenda through my role on Assembly committees and on the Assembly floor using amendments and the media to highlight the harm caused by their policies. I will seek out reasonable Republicans willing to compromise and improve legislation. I will conduct outreach throughout the 48th Assembly District to ensure that residents, staff and clients of nonprofit organizations, local elected officials, and the public-at-large are aware of the consequences of the Republicans' policies and have the information and advocacy tools they need to participate in this historic debate.
Ultimately, though, the only truly effective way to stop the Republicans' agenda is to take back legislative majorities: I will work hard to elect Democrats in the State Senate this summer, to recall Scott Walker later this year, and to take back the Assembly Majority next year.
4. Which issues do you find common ground with Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans? If you don't see any common ground, how will you try to sway them to your point of view?
I do believe there is common ground to be found in growing our economy. My priority, however, is on creating family-supporting jobs and supporting small, locally-owned businesses, not giving away taxpayer dollars to multi-national corporations. I will seek out Republicans interested in working collaboratively to grow Main Street, not Wall Street. I have always been able to sit down with those who are willing to talk honestly and rationally about how to get results. I have a diverse coalition of supporters and I will always seek out relationships and partnerships with those also seeking to get good results for our state's residents.
5. Closing the deficit has become a rallying cry for the Republicans and it is one that resonates with many Wisconsin residents. Is it important to balance the budget and if so, how would you do so? If it isn't important, why not?
Wisconsin's legislature is required to balance the budget every year. As Chief of Staff to a former member of the legislature's Joint Committee on Finance, I helped to do that during the 2009-11 state budget. I will continue my work advocating for progressive taxation so that future budgets are not balanced on the backs of the middle class, our schools, and our health care system.
6. What role should the state play in protecting the environment? Name some specific programs you would push for.
Wisconsin has a long and cherished tradition of stewarding our natural resources. Working in the Capitol for the ranking Democratic member of the Natural Resources Committee, I have worked hard to protect our groundwater and drinking water, ensure the growth of the clean energy jobs sector, and reduce our carbon footprint. I will prioritize the preservation and expansion of the Focus on Energy program, and will continue to fight for policies like the Green to Gold Fund (which I helped get passed last session), which helps manufacturers lower their energy costs and create high-quality jobs. As well, residents of the 48th Assembly District, and indeed, Wisconsin residents throughout our state, value our lakes, and we must improve lake quality, working collaboratively with local governments, environmental groups, and other stakeholders, to view our lakes as critical to our region's natural beauty and our economic growth and vitality.
7. Most Democratic candidates -- and most residents in the 48th district -- agree that the state should provide services to the poor, disabled and elderly. At the same time, these programs are among the fastest-growing in cost to the state. How can the state simultaneously control these costs while providing better services to people? Are there any grand reforms you would push for?
I have spent my entire career fighting to ensure that Wisconsin's residents have access to a real safety net and that we have effective, innovative programs that help families escape poverty. These programs are growing because the need is growing. While we must of course evaluate these programs carefully to ensure they are achieving desired outcomes and that they are administered effectively and efficiently, the solution is not to cut programs serving our state's most vulnerable populations.
The solution is to focus on pathways out of poverty through job training, education, affordable health care, child care, and transportation. And the solution is also to implement progressive taxation so that services for the poor and most vulnerable are not always on the chopping block, forcing advocates & service providers to spend precious time away from providing services and instead fighting for funding scraps.
8. What reforms, if any, would you make to the Wisconsin tax system? If you wouldn't make any, why do you think the current tax system is appropriate?
I have spent years advocating both at statewide nonprofit organizations (the Institute for Wisconsin's Future and the Wisconsin Council on Children & Families) and in the Capitol for statewide revenue reforms. We must: a) properly staff the Department of Revenue so we can collect the $1-billion-year "tax gap" owed to the state; b) ask the state's uber rich (those with incomes over $500,000/year) to pay a little more to fund our public schools, technical colleges, and health care; c) close corporate tax loopholes; and d) consider other revenue enhancements such as the 'Penny for Kids' proposal and ending targeted sales tax exemptions for special groups such as those for dog groomers.
9. What reforms would you push for with the school system?
Even before Scott Walker, our schools constantly battled for funding to maintain the quality educational system our children deserve. Rich districts are pitted against poor districts, rural versus urban -- we need to change the funding formula so our schools are not fighting against each other over the same shrinking pot of money.
I think we need to completely rethink the way schools are funded in our state and in particular consider funding sources other than property taxes, which hit seniors and others on fixed incomes the hardest. Meaningful school funding reform will: lift the revenue caps which have stifled our schools for years, ensure that districts with high poverty and high numbers of special needs kids receive targeted resources, increases categorical aids, and, most importantly, has sustainable new revenue sources.
As the only candidate with a solid track record on education, I am proud to be endorsed by the entire Madison School Board as well as numerous former Board members and education leaders throughout the 48th Assembly District. I will work with teachers, school staff and administrators to develop school funding solutions that preserve every child's right to quality education.
10. What are the most important issues facing women in Wisconsin?
Health care, access to job training and education, child care and poverty. Women are carrying a heavy burden of the budget cuts. Women are about to lose access to basic health care under Scott Walker. Employers and health care providers will, outrageously, be permitted to deny access to birth control. And funding for fundamental health services like cervical and breast cancer screenings, prenatal and postnatal care, and family planning are getting slashed. Additionally, as the primary caregivers, women are the most affected by lack of quality and affordable childcare and lack of job training and education opportunities.
In my role as staff to a member of the Joint Committee on Finance, I fought for the YoungStar program and other improvements to the quality of child care, as well as improved access to information for families about the quality of their child care center. I have also fought for expanded capacity for Wisconsin's technical colleges and financial aid for higher education. Many of these programs are being scaled back or eliminated, when they should be expanded.
11. If elected, what would you do to improve the economy?
My four years of service on Madison's Economic Development Committee and my work on statewide job-creation policies in the Capitol give me a unique understanding of the challenges and opportunities we face in growing our economy. I would refocus our tax incentives to ensure we are creating high-quality family-supporting jobs and not just lining the pockets of corporations. Small business owners have said repeatedly to me that they do not necessarily need more tax credits (and they don't qualify for most of the ones Scott Walker has recently rushed through the legislature, most of which benefit large corporations, not Main Street businesses). What small business owners need are people who can afford to buy what they're selling.
12. I've touched on some obvious big issues, but are there any issues that the media and general public are overlooking? What are thing?
As a state representative, I want to not only roll back the harmful laws that have been put in place by Scott Walker and his Republican allies, but getting back to the pre-February status quo is not good enough. Our schools, working families, health care system, and environment all had challenges before the Fitzgerald brothers became household names. Our state needs to work together to develop solutions to support workers, businesses and working families -- not tear each other apart through divisive actions and policies. We have so much work to do and I'm ready to lead on day one in the Capitol.