On October 6 the Fox Cities Chamber partnered with Post-Crescent Media to host a candidate forum for the 19th State Senate District candidates. Republican Roger Roth and Democrat Penny Bernard Schaber discussed issues related to business and economic development in an hour-long event hosted at the OuterEdge Stage. Below are highlights as reported by co-moderator Nick Penzenstadler.
Do you support Gov. Walker’s use of the budget surplus to reduce income taxes?
Roger Roth: I support income tax relief. We’re still near the top of the country for income tax. Job creators are looking for places to relocate with a good tax climate. We need to remain competitive.
Penny Bernard Schaber: I did not support that bill. I do support a fair and balanced tax system. The bill had a provision that looked at how we fund our technical colleges that will create problems going forward.
Do you support increasing the state minimum wage, to what amount?
PBS: I do support increasing the minimum wage. When we have people that have money in their pockets they can go downtown, go out for dinner, go out to movies and buy things in their community. I don’t know what level it should go to. I think we should have a commission study that and determine the options.
RR: I do not support raising the minimum wage because it hurts the very people we’re trying to help. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated in 2012 that in Wisconsin 92,000 people earn minimum wage. It could cost 27,000 jobs in Wisconsin. To me that’s not the answer. The answer is to grow the overall economy by supporting pro job creation policies in Madison.
What additional regulations should be passed, if any, regarding phosphorus?
RR: The Legislature passed phosphorus regulations in the twilight hours of the Doyle administration and they are harmful to our area. Appleton would be faced with a $40 million water treatment facility. Each of our paper mills would face $30 million in compliance. What we need to do going forward is look at the largest creators: agriculture.
PBS: The phosphorus rules were passed in a thoughtful fashion. The rules do exactly what they should do — they work with people upstream to reduce phosphorus. We need to take care of it at the beginning, instead of the end.
Should more be done by the state to facilitate the opening of an iron ore mine?
PBS: The iron ore mine bill is something I didn’t support. It changed many different standards in order to site a mine. We have a history of mining in Wisconsin, but it was different shaft mining. This is a huge strip mine that would have multiple problems. We tried to make the bill better, but it has significant problems. I don’t believe it protects the health of people and the nearby Indian reservation.
RR: I would have supported the bill. The government doesn’t create jobs, it creates an environment for job creators. This bill doesn’t change the environmental standards; they still have to comply with the Army Corps of Engineers, DNR and Environmental Protection Agency. The people in northern Wisconsin want this mine and the 700 permanent jobs. Instead of raising the minimum wage, I’d support job creation policies that would really help families where it counts.
Do you support centralizing the funding and governance of technical colleges?
PBS: Right now the technical colleges are flexible and responsive to the needs of the business community. If we change how they’re governed we’ll change that ability to respond quickly to the needs of the community, so I have some concerns about that.
RR: I do not support that. Technology changes quickly and you have to be able to respond quickly with training. I support having the local control.
Do you support the regional transit authority that would allow for a new tax to fund transit?
RR: I support the RTA because it includes some important steps that make sure the taxpayers have a say. This is a new tax, so we should ask the citizens if they support it. I think the RTA is necessary because we have multiple municipalities coming together for the bus system. I would support that and take up where Sen. Mike Ellis left off in the last session.
PBS: I’m glad we put the referendum portion in the bill. We addressed the concerns in the Senate and Assembly. We’ve worked very hard to ensure it’s the right bill for this community.
Can you see changing the gas tax or tolls to pay for transportation?
PBS: We have to find a way to support long-term funding of our transportation. There are multiple recommendations, increasing the gas tax, indexing the gas tax or taxing individual vehicles. I think we should look at all of them to make sure we continue the high quality of transportation throughout the state. Tolls would take a long time to set up with the infrastructure costs.
RR: The most important thing in addressing the transportation needs is supporting the segregation of the transportation fund. That is on the ballot. It’s important because of the raids we saw that could have been spent on roads and bridges. Cars are becoming more efficient so we’re not collecting as much in gas tax. Then I’d put all options on the table in the next session.