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.
Age: 49 Current employment: Ombudsman, Dane County Human Services
Campaign website: andyheidtforassembly.com
Relevant experience (in 75 words or less: City of Madison Alderperson 1989-93, 2004-5(appointed), President AFSCME 1871, Dane County Professionals, Co-Chair Covering Kids and Families Wisconsin, Chair CDA Long-term Planning Committee, Co-Director United Refugee Services
Please answer the following questions in 200 words or less.
1. Why are you running for the Assembly seat?
This opportunity is a logical extension of my lifelong commitment to community service. I am dedicated to a process of ongoing positive change. The Wisconsin Legislature needs democrats that will be at the cutting edge on the promotion of issues and ideas that put people and the environment at the forefront to a truly progressive agenda. Wisconsin has lost its way. We democrats will never claw our way back to power if we play corporate Republican 'lite.' We must galvanize folks by inspiring them with programs and policies to truly lead on a path to our dreams in the 21st Century.
When we were last in power, democrats cut $300 million from public schools. We cannot be partners in a race to the bottom; we must be proponents of a return of our government from corporations to us -- we -- the people of this once great State. I bring the skills, energy and ideas to be part of this process of positive change!
2. If elected, what will be your priorities for the district?
Exceptional constituent services are the first priority! The people of the 48th need and deserve a representative that will guide them through the bureaucratic morass while leading on key legislative issues that are critical to people and families. This assembly seat can be a conduit of the cutting edge of legislative innovation and policies that stimulate sustainable economic development while enhancing the quality of life in our Wisconsin.
3. Explain how, as a member of the minority, you can be effective in fighting against the Republican agenda?
A member of the minority must consistently promote an inspiring agenda that galvanizes voters to support an ongoing process of positive change. Innovation is the key to pursuing panoply of issues that capture the imagination and energy of voters while garnering the momentum for debate, articulation and implementation. I will be an energized and effective peaceful warrior articulating alternative approaches to health care, economic development, school funding, taxation and the environment in a manner that breaches class boundaries while embracing the true underpinnings of the Wisconsin Idea. I will not support business as usual but be a conscience to Republicans and Democrats alike if they stray from an agenda and focus on corporate not individual needs.
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?
We are humans and consumers who love our families and friends. We will likely battle on ideas, issues and legislation while maintaining the necessity of grim forbearance and humor required to muddle through the massive human imperfections embodied in the legislature. Where we find common ground we can work to maximize it. Where we do not, we will battle and embrace our opposing viewpoints amid the chaos of lawmaking.
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?
We have a far bigger revenue problem than a spending problem. The deficit is not as important as our future. It pales in comparison to our education and health care needs. If we change our revenue collection system to tax fully and fairly corporate profits, incomes over $250,000, capital gains, mortgage transfers, and inheritance while eliminating the non-essential areas of sales tax exemptions we can fund our schools, alleviate our deficit and reduce the arcane emphasis on property taxes to fund our schools and public services. A healthy public sector leads to a healthy private sector. Quality schools, environmental protection and affordable health care while moving into 21st century technologies and transportation will truly make our State thrive.
What role should the state play in protecting the environment? Name some specific programs you would push for?
The state of Wisconsin should take a strong lead in protecting the environment, because as Gaylord Nelson said, "The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around."
Clean air and clean water are necessary for human survival, we have an obligation to take care of these resources. Furthermore, Wisconsin has a direct economic interest in protecting the environment because of the tourism industry.
With that in mind, I support the following policies:
- Regional Transit Authorities to encourage clean transportation
- Intercity rail
- A ban on any new coal plants
- Requiring new state buildings be energy efficient
- An aggressive switch to solar power
- Streamlined and easy to understand rules for where wind turbines can be built
- A mining moratorium
We need tough environmental protections. We can phase out the use of coal over the next two decades while closing our nuclear power plants. We must focus on wind, water and sun for our energy while using emerging technologies to pursue a truly energy independent status for our state. Power companies of the future should be non-profit, buying energy from homes and distributing it where needed.
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?
It is ultimately far cheaper to provide health care for all than to allow the uninsured to have illness fester and lead to emergency room visits. Uninsured, uncompensated care drives up the costs of health care for all of us. A statewide single payer health care initiative expanding on the best aspects of the Vermont Plan would set the stage for business development and expansion while providing critical supports and prevention to those in need of appropriate care.
Secondly a State Bank is a major priority. This will allow us to maximize the resources necessary to modernize our infrastructure, preserve family farms, seed venture capital and high tech development.
Significant job training, using the technical college system, UW, DVR and community based resources can regionally focus efforts at job development, retention and upward mobility. Local exchange trading systems can expand capacity for serving folks with disabilities or the elderly as we build sustainable infrastructure capitalized by a State bank.
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 want to tax wealth and corporations fairly. Right now costs are thrown upon the backs of the middle class while completely screwing the poor into infinite submission to despair. Two thirds of Wisconsin corporations pay no income tax, this must change. High-income earners, over $250,000, should have their taxes increased. Capital gains and inheritance taxes are also critical to the revenue stream. A speculation tax on the purchase of mortgages as they are sold by financial institutions is also needed.
There are no more important investments than those we make in our children. They are the future and each generation has an obligation to provide the next with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful.
All reforms have to begin with providing the necessary resources to give every child in Wisconsin opportunities for a broad and deep education. "More with less" doesn't work. My "Keeping the Promise" plan does this by first enacting the WAES "Penny for Kids" proposal and other measures, to address the crisis caused by 18 years under a broken school-funding system and begin the process of reform. Then I would bring together educators, community members and elected officials to achieve comprehensive reform prior to the next biennial budget, reform that is based on actual costs, fully funds mandates and provides additional resources based on the special circumstances all funded equitably, progressively and with a decreased reliance on property taxes.
I would also work to restore collective bargaining rights and assure that educators have a voice in state and local policy making, roll back the voucher-based privatization of education, and move away from standardized test-based accountability for students, teachers, schools and districts.
10. What are the most important issues facing women in Wisconsin?
Health care and in particular control of their reproductive choices are crucial for women in Wisconsin. Healthy birth outcomes, in particular for African American women are a must. Our current outcomes are among the worst in the country. We have a shameful track record in this area. This a reflection of the racism and classism institutionalized in our culture. Access to preventative health care and services, reproductive care, birth control and abortions, in the rare occasions needed, is a key part of this picture.
11. If elected, what would you do to improve the economy?
The development of a State Bank is a crucial way to improve the Wisconsin economy. A State Bank tied in with revenue reform, health care for all, quality, well-funded schools creates a quality of life where the economy will thrive. A State Bank can issue bonds for capital projects in a more sustainable fashion than using the Chicago Bond Houses to siphon off State profits. Money from our bank can seed hi-tech development, preserve family farms, provide venture capital for start-ups and redefine the way we do business in Wisconsin. A State Bank has been working exceptionally well in North Dakota for nearly 100 years and will serve the Badger State well.
12. I've touched on some obvious big issues, but are there any issues that the media and general public are overlooking? What are they?
With the increasing importance of the Internet in everything from searching for a job to economic development to entertainment, Wisconsin should make sure our residents have access to fast and affordable Internet. Wisconsin should remove barriers to municipal broadband. The WiscNet program should not only be protected, but expanded. I cannot stress enough the savage inequities of the racial and economic disparities in this state. Start with African American birth outcomes and go all the way through to higher education. If we cannot enhance these outcomes what does it say about us as a state?
We also need to get discrimination out or our constitution in terms of rights for same sex partners. We also need to stop the attacks on our immigrant communities and find ways to welcome and support our friends and neighbors legally. Wisconsin can be a highly educated, interactive community, thriving! Together we have a chance for making that happen.