Newsmakers, October 16, 2014

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94th Wisconsin State Assembly Forum

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  • 94th Wisconsin Assembly District Forum Part 1

    The candidates for Wisconsin’s 94th Assembly District have no stark differences in their assessment of the suburban La Crosse County district’s economy and jobs picture. Neither candidate wants to raise taxes in Wisconsin to deal with a projected $1.8 billion dollar budget deficit in the near future that was recently forecasted by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

    But while they may agree on the current state of the district’s needs and the budget priorities, there are subtle differences in how they’d approach these issues if elected to the legislature.

    State Rep. Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska) and his challenger Traci Happel (R-Onalaska) agree the economy of the 94th is doing better than the rest of the state because of its diversity, and that public education and transportation are two of the most important areas of the state budget that are needed to keep the district’s economy strong.

    Doyle points to his experience in both state and local government and the bipartisan work he’s done since being elected to the legislature in a special election in 2011, and having one of the few bipartisan bills in the last session that helped create new jobs by setting up a new grant program for businesses that work with technical colleges to help with training. He also touts his almost 30 years of experience on the La Crosse County Board of Supervisors, as board chair he worked with the private sector to create a new business park in West Salem.

    “Working together, and looking for those opportunities to partner to make it a win-win type of opportunity, I don’t think we do enough of that in the state,” Doyle said. “I’m glad we did it at the county level, but we need to do more of it at the state.”

    Happel doesn’t have Doyle’s background as a politician. She’s a school teacher in the La Crosse School District, who gained the attention of the GOP by being one of the rare teachers who supported Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker’s signature piece of legislation four years ago that stripped many collective bargaining rights from most public employee unions in Wisconsin.

    She says she wants to work with the many organizations and businesses in the district to keep the local economy going strong.

    “To work with the universities, to work with the businesses in town to get those kids who are attending our universities to stay in our region, and to look at the people who live in the region already who are looking to move into a different job,” Happel said. “Bringing people together through ingenuity, creativity and what their interests are.”

    Doyle and Happel also talked about issues like taxes, health care and women’s reproductive health issues in this first part of the forum.

    The election is Tuesday, November 4.

  • 94th Wisconsin Assembly District Forum Part 2

    The candidates in the 94th state Assembly District election say they are both willing to get involved in state transportation plans for a new express route from south La Crosse to Interstate 90.

    The Department of Transportation has advocated for a new route for years, and while city of La Crosse voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan for the so-called North-South Corridor in 1998, funding for such a project has remained in the DOT’s long-range budget plans. Recently, DOT Secretary Marc Gottleib recommended the state release the funds from future planning because there is no consensus on a project. The La Crosse area could lose out on nearly $140 million for road building if the project were removed from the list.

    Many residents who live in the 94th District could benefit from a new expressway, especially commuters who live to the north of La Crosse. While they’ve generally supported a new route in the past, they didn’t vote in the 1998 referendum.

    Challenger Traci Happel (R-Onalaska) says before the DOT shelves the project and its funding permanently, constituents in the 94th should be heard from.

    “I think it goes to a broader issue of the economy,” she said. “If we want to continue that ease of traffic flow to reach the businesses and services on the south side (of La Crosse) and the south side coming up to the north side to reach our (94th District)business services, and keeping those two economies running smoothly together, we have to ask the people what they think. Not only the residents, but the businesses as well, how is this impacting you, how will it impact you.”

    Assemblyman Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska) says it’s important to preserve the money for La Crosse area transportation needs or risk losing it to the Milwaukee area. He says state lawmakers will also have to work to change state law to define how the money can be used.

    “What we really need to do is sit down with the Department of Transportation and look at the parameters of what those funds can be used for,” he said. “We can’t say for example were going to use it for mass transit, or were going to use it do a route on the other side of the bluff between Medary and Barre. (rural townships east of La Crosse) We have to look at the specific language of the funding that is there right now and determine what we can do to preserve it so we can hopefully in the next legislative session change that law to say the La Crosse area has the ability to use it, not just for the specific North-South Corridor purpose as it was defined more than 20 years ago, but also use it for slightly different purposes.”

    The election is being held on November 4.

    The audio for this portion of the forum includes the candidate’s views on the Badger Coulee transmission line proposal, voter ID and Common Core standards for K-12 education.

  • UW-La Crosse 94th Assembly Forum

    This forum between 94th Assembly Candidates, State Rep. Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska) and Challenger Traci Happel (R-Onalaska) was recorded Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at UW-La Crosse.

Episode Credits

  • Maureen McCollum Host
  • John Davis Producer
  • Representative Steve Doyle Guest
  • Traci Happel Guest

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