Two candidates vying for the 64th Assembly District took to the podium addressing a wide range of issues from Foxconn to voucher schools during a candidate forum held at Gateway Technical College Wednesday night.
Mark Stalker, R-Kenosha, and Tip McGuire, D-Kenosha, are opposing each other in a special election on April 30 for a seat in the state Assembly that is open after longtime Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, stepped down earlier this year. Barca was tapped by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to serve as the state Secretary of the Department of Revenue.
The hour and a half long forum was moderated by Len Iaquinta, a WGDT program host, and coordinated by WGTD, which broadcasts on the Gateway campus.
During the forum, which close to 70 people attended, McGuire and Stalker addressed prepared questions from the public including one that asked them who was right in bringing up reconsideration of the Foxconn contract, one that both Evers and Foxconn reportedly have said they were wanting to review.
McGuire said he doesn’t believe in “finger pointing” and the political games surrounding the Mount Pleasant development that was touted as one that would infuse thousands of new jobs to the area.McGuire said that he wants families to have jobs that can support them.
He said that if both parties did not want to re-negotiate the contract then, “at the very least we are holding them accountable to the promises they made." He later said "if both parties want to sit down to renegotiate, great. Then, we'll sit down at the negotiation table and work it out then."
“I want to make sure this is successful, but make sure that the taxpayers and the environment is being protected,” he said.
McGuire said he was also concerned that the negotiations early on pit municipalities against each other and that, if the jobs “don’t show up,” Mount Pleasant may have “some bills come due.”
Stalker took issue with the governor’s stance in reconsidering the contract, saying that the checks and balances have been in place and Foxconn has spent the money committing to its investment.
“Let’s keep it rolling in,” Stalker said. As the largest manufacturing campus of its kind, he added, “We need to make this work, and they will thrive.”
On the issue of funding transportation, McGuire said he leans toward a “usage based” model in which those who use the roads most are proportionally taxed more.
“Increasing the gas tax would charge tourists, and out-of-state people who would be contributing to (funding) the roads,” he said.
Stalker said he’s opposed to a gas tax because residents are already taxed enough. He said he wants to make sure that such taxes are being used to fund projects with the money spent wisely, after reviewing a state audit in which one budgeted project ended costing nearly five times as much when it was done.
On the issue of health care, Stalker said he is not in favor of accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid and that people, especially younger adults, should take advantage of health savings accounts.
McGuire, however, said he believes all Wisconsin residents need to have access to affordable health care and he’d be willing to accept federal money to expand Medicaid.
He said he also supports a drug transparency unit to ensure that consumers are paying fair prices for their prescriptions.
Stalker and McGuire also held opposing views on state-funded school vouchers, which would allow families to choose which schools their children attend, including non-public schools.
Stalker, whose five children were home-schooled, believes that vouchers give families a choice to send their children to schools that are achieving.
“Not everybody fits in a public school setting,” he said.
McGuire said that what he objects to are voucher schools and independent charter schools that aren’t overseen by publicly-elected boards. He said such schools aren’t subject to the same rigorous standards in place at public schools. He said he doesn’t oppose choice options, even home schooling, but not at taxpayers’ expense.