On August 14th of this year, Wisconsin will hold its 2018 Partisan Primary. Voters will have the opportunity to select candidates to represent their political party in the November 6th midterm election. Offices to be elected include Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, U.S. Senator, Representative in Congress, State Senator for odd-numbered districts, and Representatives to the Wisconsin Assembly for all districts. Additionally, county offices including Sheriff, Clerk of Circuit Court, and Coroner will be up for election.
Milwaukee Area Science Advocates (MASA) aims to educate the public on important scientific issues. In recent years, values of science and reason have waned in political discourse. We at MASA believe it’s important that citizens be informed on how a political candidate intends to address issues within our state from a science-based perspective. To that end, we created a survey for gubernatorial candidates to respond with their perspective on science related political topics. MASA does not endorse or oppose any of the candidates running for office. As a nonpartisan organization, our goal is to educate the public in an unbiased way. For transparency, below you will find both the unaltered questions posed and candidate’s responses. Attempts were made to reach all candidates; however, not all could be reached for response.
Mahlon Mitchell’s responses were added post-publication.
Research and Innovation
In the 19th and 20th centuries, economic growth in the United States has been largely due to science and engineering innovations. Given the competitive nature of research and development in the global economy. Do you believe policy changes can keep Wisconsin competitive in development of new research and technology in the modern era?
Yes. I believe policy changes at the state level can make a difference, but there is a great deal of work to be done. First, the state must change the way we fund schools (see answer to next question). Second, as Governor, I will fully fund the University of Wisconsin, add $100 million in needs-based financial aid and create a free tuition program from technical and two-year UW colleges. I will restore statutory protections for tenure and shared governance.
The UW system is the engine that drives our economy. Because of the harsh rhetoric and deep budget cuts Wisconsin is losing our best and brightest professors, scientists and researchers to other states.
With increasing child poverty, in Wisconsin, our future scientists are more likely to be born in poverty. I strongly support opening wide the door of higher education, both to improve the standard of living in the state and to tap into the potential of so many who see college as out of reach because of financial barriers.
As a child my father, Al Soglin – a mathematician – impressed upon me the importance of logic and scientific inquiry and their importance in advancing the condition of humans. Before my teens I was familiar with Bertrand Russell, Madame Curie, Thomas Alva Edison, Issac Asimov, and Charles Darwin. I read their biographies, knew the details of the Scopes Trial, and the discovery of penicillin.
I share this with you as a broad answer to all of your questions. We must be free to pursue scientific inquiry and research if we are to improve the human condition and solve the problems of world hunger, disease, and protect the planet.
Wisconsin, and the nation, must drop intimidating legal and religious barriers to research, invest in discovery, and support create young minds. We must do this not just for competitive economic reasons but to ensure a safer environment and a healthier population
Wisconsin can and always should be a leader in research and technical innovation, and our policies should support their development. For example, we can become a leader in research and development in one of our core industries – agriculture and dairy farming. Only a handful of Wisconsin’s dairy producers have the facilities to perform research and develop new products. The Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research has helped cheesemakers expand into the specialty cheese market, and can additionally be leveraged to help dairy producers develop innovative processes and products. To date, the Center for Dairy Research has been funded through dairy farmer checkoff dollars. As Governor, I will invest in the Center for Dairy Research so that every dairy producer in Wisconsin can take advantage of the center’s research. In addition, we should relaunch the Dairy Business Innovation Center within DATCP, which helped create 43 new dairy plants, helped 72 existing dairy plants expand, launched more than 50 new cheese varieties, and sparked $1.2 billion in industry reinvestment between 2004 and 2012. Wisconsin should also leverage federal grand funds by providing matching or additional funds to USDA grant recipients, including Value-Added Producer Grant, Specialty Crop Block Grant, Farmers Market Promotion Program, and Rural Cooperative Development Grant.
Additionally, the University of Wisconsin is our crown jewel – and one of the premiere economic engines of our state. We must deliver the resources to properly educate students (without leaving them under a mountain of debt) and maintain its status as a world class institution. We must ensure that the two and four year UW institutions are driving innovation and nurturing the startup businesses that are the backbone of our economy. As an entrepreneur myself, I understand the virtuous relationship between our UW system and private colleges and our entrepreneurial ecosystem. We need less political interference in academia, such as destroying tenure and criminalizing biomedical research, and more political investment in the wellbeing of our research institutions.
Last, in today’s global economy, it is increasingly difficult to maintain a middle-class life
with only a high school education. We should provide more training and employment assistance to displaced workers, and help employees keep their skills up to date. In addition, we ought to expand educational and training opportunities for adult learners – including vocational and technical college and universities – to help workers succeed in a knowledge-based economy.
Restore both state funding that has been cut and governing autonomy that has been taken away from the university system. Stop the political meddling from the Capitol and revive Wisconsin’s historical commitment to investing in higher education and maintaining a world-class university system. Another trail Wisconsin should blaze is aggressive development of the renewable energy sector. Unfortunately, as families and businesses are exploring renewable energy options and installing green systems, our own state government is erecting roadblocks. As families and businesses press on the accelerator, the state hits the brakes. Our state government needs to be put on the side of the energy revolution. Instead, in recent years state lawmakers have twice now made laws aimed at resuscitating mining in Wisconsin. Mining as it is done today is not only a largely jobless enterprise but also is environmentally hazardous. Trying to bring back a 19th Century industry instead of actively incentivizing the development of a 21st Century clean energy economy makes no sense. It should be Wisconsin’s goal to become the first state in the nation fully powered by renewable energy. This is not only the right thing to do for the environment and our planet, it’s good for our economy. If Wisconsin could just reach the Midwest average for producing clean energy jobs, we would have 30,000 more people employed in that sector of our state’s economy.
Yes. My policy changes include greatly increasing fundraising to the UW system; restoring statutory tenure; reaffirming the mission statement; and advocating nationally for the best professors and graduate students to come to our state. UW Madison is one of the top universities in the world, and UW Milwaukee is now a first-tier research institution. I would provide significant attention and resources to both UW Madison and UW Milwaukee to support their missions.
Without a doubt. But to stay competitive, it requires a collaborative effort between the public and private sectors. That starts with undoing the funding cuts and hyper-politicization of the University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Technical College Systems. Both here in our state and across the nation, drawing on world-class research institutions for businesses to partner with is a proven model of success. Unfortunately, the current administration and ruling party has sought to chip away at the value of our research institutions, driving world class scholars and their research dollars across state lines. Wisconsin needs a governor who understands the link between innovation, research and a strong economy.
Wisconsin is in danger of being left behind by our neighbors as they advance clean energy policies and embrace emerging scientific research, especially as it relates to advancements in modern medicine. As Governor, I will roll back the aggressive anti-science policies and stances that many of our state agencies currently operate under. I will also advance and advocate for policies that support research and evidence-based solutions.
I strongly believe that the right policies will make Wisconsin not only a competitor in research and technology, but also a leader in innovation. The rapid change in the global economy and the race to innovate is why 2018 is such an important election, and as Governor I will stress the urgency for Wisconsin to lead.
As Governor, I will pursue a green energy initiative that will put Wisconsin at the forefront of the new energy industry. Recently I spoke with auto executives working on biomass innovation to create fuel infrastructure that will bring safer, environmentally friendly alternative energy vehicles. Wisconsin can and should be a part of this innovation. As Governor I will pursue these types of partnership that propel technology and bring high paying jobs to our state.
Part of my campaign platform includes growing our public universities, which do a sizeable amount of new research here in Wisconsin. We need our UW System to continue to produce state of the art R&D and new technologies to keep up with competing states. If we fully fund our two and four years colleges, I know that we can build an economy here in Wisconsin that is the envy of the country.
Yes I do. The more people, companies and industries involved in research, the better the research and the more advantageous this research will be to our economy and our society. I hope to deregulate industries that want to perform needed research.
As a business owner I have personally commercialized two intellectual properties developed at major universities with federally funded research grants. Such tech transfer is the foundation of the Wisconsin idea and just one of many reasons we need to fund our higher education system as sufficiently as possible. I support Milwaukee business executive Tom Hefty’s idea of forming a Blue Ribbon Commission on higher ed. I believe WI should be competing for leadership in every possible area of science and engineering, including sustainable energy technology development.
STEM professions are proven career tracks to success and most industries are eager to hire well-trained scientists and engineers. Yet, American children are falling behind their foreign counterparts in math and science skills. Among 35 nations surveyed, U.S. children rank 30th in math and 19th in science literacy. In what ways do you feel you can improve scientific literacy among Wisconsin children?
Public education today has less state resources, in real dollars, than a decade ago. Cuts across our public education system has left fewer resources for STEM, gifted and talented programs and, even the basic education children need.
The way Wisconsin pays for schools is unfair, inequitable and antiquated and must be changed.
We have more students in poverty, more with special needs, English learners, students suffering from mental illness and experiencing trauma. These students facing challenging situations cost us more to educate.
We should throw out the antiquated formula based on property wealth. Schools need a flexible, consistent commitment from the state to pay districts based on student needs and the costs of educating the students in a particular school district.
Some new numbers from Kids Forward – a nonpartisan advocacy group – explain in stark detail why our public schools, from Milwaukee to Superior to Alma, are hurting. Why programs have been cut. Why districts are asking their voters to increase property taxes to balance their budgets. Between 2012 and 2019, Wisconsin will spend a cumulative $3.5 billion less in state aid to schools than if the state had stayed at the 2011 funding level.
Historically, Wisconsin has had one of the best public education systems in the country. The results from the passage of Act 10 are seriously affecting the quality of our schools. Together, Act 10 and the budget cuts have had a devastating effect on public education in Wisconsin. Teachers have left the profession. College enrollment in teacher education programs has dropped precipitously. School districts are finding it increasingly difficult to hire qualified teachers to fill vacancies.
In an attempt to fix the problems they created, the Governor and Republican legislators in the 2015 state budget enacted the lowest teaching standards for any state in the country. DPI followed by lowering the standards for teacher education programs. This is exactly the Wrong Direction Wisconsin should be going if we want raise our math and science literacy.
Reversing the downward spiral of the last seven years will take concerted, bipartisan effort, but the quality of our schools in all parts of the state, and the future of our children depends on it.
Ever since the Soviets launched the first Sputnik, we knew that the U.S. was lagging in the scientific, mathematical, and engineering disciplines. Over the past sixty years we failed to meet reasonable expectations to educate our children in these subjects. Children need to be exposed to these subjects at an early age and find entertainment in solving mathematical and logical puzzles, experience the joy of chemistry experiments, and wonder at thrilling engineering and physics accomplishments. They need to learn the secrets of life.
But allow me to shift the focus of your question. There is a more important reason that career development to embrace this knowledge. The primary purpose is to learn how to think and to create. With that will come careers and economic success.
Our children need to develop skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow. We ought to emphasize STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) as core areas for learning, in addition to critical thinking, communication, and cooperation skills. We know one of most important factors in a child’s success is the teacher at the front of the room. We must attract the best and brightest young people to careers in education, and keep our career teachers in the classroom with adequate professional development and mentorship, sufficient prep time, and student debt forgiveness for taking on challenging teaching assignments. That means ensuring dedicated young people an affordable college education, wages that support a family and a middle class life, a voice in their workplace, and above all, respect for their profession. One cannot value education and disrespect the educators who provide it.
We must significantly increase our funding commitment to public schools, especially in areas of the state which have been hardest hit by budget cuts. As governor, I will prioritize equity in our funding formula, rather than exacerbating district-level inequality. All the children of Wisconsin, rural and urban, deserve our immediate and sustained commitment to their public schools. Parents, regardless of their income or zip code should not have to worry that our public schools aren’t meeting the 21st Century needs of their children, and only by investing significant resources in our public education system can we ensure excellent schools for every child. For example, clubs and programs such as FIRST Robotics, FIRST Lego League, or Science Olympiad are often forced to compete with longstanding sports programs for district funding, as well as local booster support. Finding ways to have private industry partner with local teams, as well as the ability for schools to have the infrastructure and ability to provide funds to these clubs are crucial in fostering kids interest in STEAM activities. We should also find ways to help fund STEAM enrichment activities during summer months for students, particularly in areas of our state where students are most in need.
Finally, as children grow up and consider continuing their education post K-12, Wisconsin should make its two-year colleges and technical schools free, increasing access to low – and moderate-income students who don’t have family support. These schools are often where apprenticeship and technical diploma programs are housed that serve skills-based training through technical or certificate programs. Also, we as a state should provide more training and employment assistance to displaced workers, and help employees keep their skills up to date through the WTCS. We ought to expand educational and training opportunities for adult learners – including vocational and technical college and universities – to help workers succeed in a knowledge-based economy. Paired with flexible schedules and childcare, we can make WTCS an even more effective driver of economic development and upward mobility.
As counterintuitive as this may seem, I strongly believe a key to improving scientific literacy is to reemphasize arts and humanities education in our schools and universities. As important as STEM coursework is, our best line of defense in the future against both scientific illiteracy and the loss of employment to automation is the ability to think critically, creatively and strategically. These thinking skills are nurtured and honed by the study of the arts and humanities.
By improving access to high-speed broadband internet and fully funding the public education system we can improve education. We must also do more to encourage girls and children of color to study in the STEM fields.
As a former science teacher and your current state superintendent, this is an issue I live and breathe. I believe there are a few things we can do right now to make a difference for generations of kids. We’ve put stronger science, computer science, and environmental literacy and sustainability standards in place for the first time in over 25 years. These standards help students, parents and educators know what students should know and should be able to do. This helps Wisconsin stay competitive with other states and countries in scientific learning. I’ve also championed and grown state STEM applied learning like Robotics programs, computer coding, FabLabs, and Project Lead the Way through successful legislation and budget requests.
Moving forward, we must take steps to close opportunity gaps between students of color and their white peers, as well as the gender gap in the sciences. And to do so, we must address the inequities that exist concerning access to STEM coursework and high-quality educators. Whether at a young age or during later stages of their K-12 careers, students of color and females lack access to the same scientific opportunities as their white and male peers. That impacts achievement levels and eventually the ability of our businesses to recruit and retain quality employees.
In my current role, I’m working to address these issues through the federal education law and policies I can impact. But as Governor, I will be able to expand this vision, make sure it receives the funding it deserves, and build new partnerships within the business community. In addition to closing gaps, we must remain current in our teaching practices as it comes to science education. We cannot afford to stand still as research and innovation shape our knowledge and economies of the world.
First and foremost we will prioritize an evidenced based curriculum in the classroom, ensuring our teachers are highly trained and equipped to effectively teach STEM courses to all students. Putting math and science at the forefront will be a priority of our administration, where STEM education experts will prepare our children for the modern economy.
This issue is personal for me. Before my father died, he tutored high school students in algebra and computer science. It was his incredible encouragement that led me to write my first computer program when I was only ten years old. He knew that the future of our economy was in STEM and mentored children to achieve that.
As Governor, I will encourage a statewide STEM competition in which students from every community can compete in innovative and creative ways. And I will bring forward a public service initiative that will encourage talented community leaders to mentor and rally our children on in pursuit of these critical subjects.
We need to fund our public schools at higher levels than we have in past budget cycles. Since 2011, Wisconsin continues to fall down the latter when it comes to education spending. We need to return to pre-2011 levels of education funding, so that our kids can have the resources to get ahead. I would also like to see a constitutional amendment stipulating that the state would fund 2/3rd’s of all public education. For too long, Wisconsin has left the burden of education funding on the shoulders of local property tax payers. We need a new system, which is not totally dependent on local property values and the ability to tax them.
American children are falling behind because the public school system is overburdened in dealing with social and behavioral issues. A diversification of education options, and allowing ALL taxpayers access to the maximum choice of how and where to educate their children, will allow parents to choose schools with better STEM-oriented curricula and improve the lives and futures of their children.
The US has never been strong on the PISA, so I think we need to be careful to not sputnik this issue. Not to diminish the importance of STEM, but there is also nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned liberal arts degree! The single most important thing Wisconsin can do to improve scientific literacy among children is improve our literacy outcomes; we rank 34th on the NAEP and our outcomes for children living in poverty are the very worst in the US. If you can’t read proficiently, your science and math tests become reading tests. Just consider how many young scientists we’ve lost in Milwaukee.
How should an effective administration determine the most pressing public health issues facing their constituency and how they should be best remediated? Could you briefly describe some pressing public health concerns in Wisconsin, your desired approach to them, and how you came to your conclusions?
Public health is dear to my heart. I received a bachelor’s degree in health education, a Masters of Public Health and a doctorate in Health Services Research. As a health researcher, I know the importance of empirical evidence. As a community health educator, I understand the realities of program implementation and evaluation.
To determine the most pressing problems in communities across the state, as Governor, I would ask them. Many communities are already conducting community health needs assessments on a regular basis. I work regularly with several of these communities to review the results and the initiatives of task forces the communities have developed to address the problems they have identified.
One of the most pressing public health problems is related to mental health and addiction. These problems not only come up frequently on the local needs assessments, they are also first on the list of problems local government officials contact me about in my 12 years’ experience as Senator
Further, in my work as co-chair and then ranking minority member on the Joint Committee on Audit, I’ve seen the results of audits and heard testimony from our Department of Corrections about how our current prison population suffers from mental health conditions. Recently, the DOC Secretary testified that an astounding 81% of the female inmates and 38% of the male inmates suffer from mental health conditions; 70% of all inmates suffer from addiction.
The solutions are complex. They also lie to the west. Minnesota has roughly, the same population and crime rate. Yet that state has less than half of the number of prison inmates. In recovery circles, MN is known as the Land of 10,000 treatment centers. Wisconsin needs to become the Land of 15,000 treatment centers.
What to do? First, as Governor, I would accept the federal Medicaid expansion money. In doing so, I would cover another 79,000 individuals with MA and free up $286 million (using numbers from the current budget). I would invest this money as a down payment in creating a community-based mental health and addiction recovery system across the state.
Second, I would fully fund the Treatment Alternatives and Diversion program (TAD). This program is a highly effective alternative to incarceration. The program is funded at $2 million in state money. I would increase that number by tenfold. In the budget alternatives I wrote to the current Governor’s budget, I’ve shown how to fund the increase in TAD, the investment in community-based treatment centers and the change in the school funding formula and many other needed changes, with the same state dollars in the budget.
Please, this answer requires a dissertation.
We will monitor trends and reports, we will stay abreast of the latest findings, and we will support our own research and convene policy makers with academicians and researchers. We will fund these programs.
We will start with the opioid crisis; violence as a public health issue; infant mortality; disparity in our society based on geography, race, and income level; the level of salt, phosphorus, nitrates and other chemicals in our fresh water; we will examine the impact of manure on our lakes, rivers, and streams; we will concern ourselves with communicable diseases, failure to immunize, the over prescription of antibiotics, and air quality.
I read, I listen, and I learn.
Healthcare is a right, and every Wisconsinite deserves access to high quality, affordable health care. As governor, I will work to enact universal healthcare coverage, which is why I have been endorsed by Demand Universal Healthcare. I will strengthen the ACA by forming a state exchange, opening up Badgercare as a public option to anyone, individual or employer, who wants to buy into it, accepting the federal Medicaid expansion dollars, and increasing the reimbursement rate to capture more federal match dollars and increase access to providers. Ideally we should de-couple insurance from employment – making health care universal and independent from one’s job, and removing the burden on smaller employers and increasing job mobility. As vice-chair of the Committee on Health and Healthcare Reform, I helped oversee the expansion of Badgercare to over 80,000 childless adults – the first time we had ever provided health insurance to this group of low-income people. I am a longtime supporter of universal healthcare, and advocate for single payer, and helped lead successful efforts efforts to save SeniorCare when it was under attack by Republican legislators.
As a proud, lifelong supporter of abortion rights and reproductive justice, there is no question that I will champion the full autonomy of women to make their own health care decisions, free from any political interference. I will expand reproductive justice, including public and private funding for abortion care, eliminating restrictions on abortion and reproductive health, and ensuring culturally competent care and reducing infant mortality and racial disparities in healthcare. Bearing healthy children is a reproductive right as well, so I support universal paid family leave and affordable, high quality childcare for all. I also coauthored the Right to Breastfeed Act, the Healthy Youth Act, and many other reproductive health bills. As the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, I helped Wisconsin pass its first pro-choice bill in 30 years, the Compassionate Care for Rape Victims Act.
Specific public health issues I would address include the opioid epidemic, clean air, and clean water – from lead pipes to groundwater pollution to non-point-source pollution. As governor, I would look to both UWM and UW public health schools research on guiding action on how major health outcomes in Wisconsin have changed and need to be addressed. Additionally, utilization of resources from the Medical College of Wisconsin should be used to provide the latest in best practice information and research conducted within our state, particularly leveraging their urban campus in Milwaukee and their rural campuses in Northern Wisconsin
I believe in treating all substance use disorders as healthcare problems first and foremost, addressing them when possible in the public health system rather than the criminal justice system. I will Create a Division of Prevention and Recovery within the Department of Health Services which will be charged with preventing substance use disorder and supporting people and families affected by substance use disorder. It should use evidence-based practices and bring a trauma-informed care lens to address the opioid crisis. All incarcerated people should be eligible for BadgerCare to ensure that they can initiate or maintain medication assisted treatment for substance use disorder while they are incarcerated and upon release. Research shows this approach leads to decreased recidivism, decreased emergency room visits for overdose, and decreased overdose deaths. For most people, effective opioid abuse treatment includes medication assisted treatment and counseling — we need increased access to both. We should also increase the use of harm reduction strategies, which helps keep opioid users safe while making it easier to get them into treatment and recovery.
Another public health issue is that the quality of our air and water depends on where we live. As Governor, I will work to ensure that economically disadvantaged areas and neighborhoods where people of color are predominant are not a dumping ground for pollution and the health problems left in their wake. This is especially important for residential areas where children live. The number one health reason children miss school is asthma, and a main driver of asthma is air pollution. I will resist all efforts, like those of Foxconn, to exceed established air pollution levels and will oppose the building of any new coal-fired power plants. We must also work to address issues of lead in our water, municipalities across Wisconsin are confronting aging infrastructure and the need to protect their residents.
Finally, I believe clean water is a right. With some 15,000 lakes, two Great Lakes and thousands of miles of rivers and streams, water is the lifeblood of Wisconsin. Our state is a leader on water research and collaboration, with the Water Council, the UW Limnology Department, and the School of Freshwater Sciences, among other institutions working on water issues. It supports our whole way of life, including recreation, tourism, and agriculture. As Governor, I will do everything in my power to preserve and restore state waters. This includes vigorously enforcement of the Great Lakes Compact, ensuring that CAFOs and factory farms comply with environmental laws to protect drinking water and lake and stream water quality, and refusing to permit new CAFOs in any area where it is geologically unsound to have massive herding operations. Furthermore, I will restore local authority to manage critical water resources in accord with local needs, including shorelands, waterways, and wetlands in partnership with state agencies, work with farmers to manage nutrients effectively, to reduce runoff that causes algae blooms and degrades water quality and aquatic life, and protect public access to lakes, rivers, and streams. All Wisconsinites should be able to enjoy our water resources, as the Public Trust Doctrine guarantees.
Having traveled close to 90,000 miles to reach out to local residents in communities in every part of the state, I have repeatedly encountered evidence of the public health crises relating to neglect of serious mental health challenges and drug addiction. Tragically, Wisconsin is mainly addressing mental health and drug abuse through its corrections system and not through the health care system. These public health threats are underlying causes of mass incarceration that dooms Wisconsin to a state budget that spends more on prisons than on the entire university system. Wisconsin’s approach to crime and punishment needs to change if the state is to reach the point of being able to spend more to unlock the potential of our population than it does to lock people up. Wisconsin should emphasize sentencing alternatives to imprisonment for nonviolent offenses in particular and focus more on mental health and drug addiction treatment.
Imprisoning twice as many people in Wisconsin than in neighboring Minnesota hasn’t resulted in less crime in Wisconsin. The two states have virtually identical crime rates. But because Wisconsin spends so much more on prisons than Minnesota, we are far less able to invest in empowering young people with education. The need to address driving forces of mass incarceration is why I support full legalization of marijuana. Current drug laws have proven ineffective, counterproductive and racially discriminatory. Those who use have shown they will use whether it’s legal or illegal. Under my plan, licensed dispensaries would be authorized to operate in Wisconsin and legal sales of marijuana would be taxed, with the new source of revenue used to fund needed investments in public health and education programs.
Gun violence is a public health crisis. I support 16 different actions to prevent gun violence and make communities safer. The national group Moms Demand Action recognized the stands I’ve taken and singled me out as one of the “Gun Sense Candidates” running for office across the country. The actions I favor include everything from comprehensive criminal background checks for all firearms purchases, which means closing the gun show and online loopholes; banning bump stocks and military assault weapons; restoring Wisconsin’s 48-hour waiting period for gun purchases; and getting rid of NRA-backed state laws that prohibit communities from making local laws on guns and gun violence, which will empower local communities to develop customized responses to neighborhood safety and gun violence. The full list of gun violence measures I support can be found at https://www.governorbluejeans.com/mccabe_earns_moms_demand_action_s_gun_sense_candidate_distinction_mike_mccabe_for_governor.
To make affordable health care accessible to everyone, Wisconsin needs to correct two mistakes and take one other critical step. First, the state should accept federal Medicaid expansion funds the current administration has turned down. That would allow more than 80,000 additional people to get health insurance under BadgerCare. The second mistake that needs to be corrected is the state’s choice not to set up our own health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act. Wisconsin should have its own state insurance marketplace. Once a state exchange is established, that clears the way for the third step to be taken, namely making BadgerCare a public option that is put on the exchange and made available to anyone regardless of income who feels it is the best insurance for them and chooses to enroll. BadgerCare’s cost averages close to 40% less than the average private insurance, and it offers better coverage with no sky-high deductibles and co-pays.
I would consult doctors, nurses, and health care administrators to discuss public health issues. Some pressing public health concerns from my perspective include mental health services, telemedicine services in rural areas, and opioid addiction. I would increase funding to address these issues, sue insurance companies for recklessness in suppling overprescribers, and legalizing cannabis to reduce opioid addiction.
I believe that good leaders surround themselves with people who can help them make the right decisions. I would seek to surround myself with health policy leaders who have played a role in higher education and medical fields to assist in identifying and solving the state’s health care policy issues. As a cancer survivor, I also know that those who have experienced or are experiencing serious health ailments or have loved ones who they have supported through the health care system have lived experience that is often critical to seek out and consider as part of decision-making protocols.
One of the critical public health issues facing Wisconsin is our inequitable and overly costly system of health care. There’s one big reason that folks in Minnesota pay half the price Wisconsinites do when purchasing health insurance through the state exchanges – Minnesota accepted the Medicaid expansion dollars and Wisconsin did not. We need to take the federal money and increase access for Wisconsin residents. I formed this position after talking with Wisconsinites about their poor health care coverage, discussing solutions with policy-makers and health policy experts, and researching the issue myself.
A second public health issue is the epidemic of gun violence that is devastating communities across Wisconsin and our country. This includes both self-inflicted gunshot wounds and suicides, but also homicides. There is no other country that suffers from gun violence the way we do here in the United States. I believe we need a win on this issue to break the political gridlock and I believe it starts with universal background checks, which over 81% of Wisconsinites support.
As Governor, I will ensure public health issues are addressed effectively utilizing an evidence-based approach toward administration policies. Wisconsin’s overall health rankings have fallen in the last several years causing a social and fiscal cost to our state. As Governor I will focus on reversing this trend by targeting root causes and working with public health policy experts.
The opioid and mental health crisis in Wisconsin have after many years of being ignored, come to the forefront of political discourse, yet remains unsolved. In the last ten years, drug deaths in Wisconsin have increased 90% according to the United Health Foundation. We need to first treat addiction as what it is, a disease, and not continue to treat citizens with mental health disorders as criminals. Instead we need to focus on creating a healthcare system equipped with a skilled workforce and the innovation needed to effectively treat those struggling with addiction.
Secondly, we must avoid the over prescription of opioid based medications to at risk patients through ongoing support programs developed with data and recommendations of the leading experts in the field.
As Governor I will pursue policies that prevent the continuation of epidemics like our opioid crisis, including full marijuana legalization. Every state that has legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational use has seen a significant reduction in opioid related overdoses.
One of the more important public health concerns in Wisconsin is how we address addiction- especially the opioid crisis. Being addicted is not a crime. Thousands of people are impacted by this issue and our number of residents overdosing continues to climb. We need to legalize marijuana and use those revenues to help combat the opioid crisis here in Wisconsin. The other major area of concern, is the skyrocketing cost of accessing health care. We need to decrease the cost of premiums and address the ever-increasing cost of prescription drugs. We need to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the high cost of drugs and expand BadgerCare to increase access to health care. After traveling the state for more than a year, I know that these are the issues facing both urban and rural communities. Together, we can address them, while not breaking our state budget.
The biggest public health issue we face is addiction, and the criminalizing of drug use. My first priority will be to end the racist war on cannabis in Wisconsin. Cannabis can not only aid in the fight against opioid addiction, but the legalization of cannabis will help keep people out of jail for non-violent victimless crimes- and we know the massive health issues that incarceration, especially solitary confinement, inflict on our people.
I believe most public health issues including opiate addiction and alcoholism are a function of poverty. Our income gap is growing and one of worst in the US. Our next governor must have a plan to grow the economy so that we can be in a position to mediate rural and urban poverty, and sufficiently fund public health initiatives such as Minnesota’s community public health system proven to help reduce substance abuse and related costly outcomes e.g. incarceration.
Science in Policy
How will your administration stay informed on scientific advancements? How will science influence decisions and policy in your administration?
My commitment to using research in policy making is long standing; from my education (PhD in Health Service Research with a minor in Research Methods and Statistics); and my work as professor. As grad student, ten years as professor, and 12 years as Senator, I learned that facts matter.
As Senator, I became known as the one lawmaker who read the budget papers, and the audits, knew the numbers and proposed her own alternatives to the Governor’s budget. To stay informed, I read. Everything I could find. I called experts. I quizzed analysts. I asked questions and more questions.
As professor, one area of my study was how research became a part of the political process. The simple answer to summarize our findings was: Research must be embodied in the process. One of the most disappointing understandings in my 12 years as Senator was how little research was embodied in the political process. How often I asked questions – where do I go to get answers, what are your sources, where are the findings – and never got an answer.
A quick example: I was crafting a bill to protect the public from the fine particulates that are found near sand mines. I needed technical expertise and asked, at the court house, a DNR expert to help me. He led me to the janitor’s closet on the second floor of the courthouse, closed the door and told me that he could not talk to me, as a legislator. If he did, he was required to write down everything I said and he said and submit the written report to his supervisor. I confronted former Secretary Stepp with this story during an audit committee hearing. In answer, she physically turned her back on me.
Under a Governor Vinehout administration, scientists, professors, and public employees will all be invited to testify and participate in the public process. Research is critical to the public process. It must be embodied in the form of an expert who participates in the public process.
I will continue to read scientific reports and journals, and will be surrounded by a staff and department heads who do the same in their professions. As I do now, when I find reports relevant to problems we face, I will seek out the researchers and academicians and meet with them in an effort to formulate better public policy and programs.
I am a firm believer in UW System’s vision of the Wisconsin Idea – that research conducted within the system should be applied to helping solve problems, improve public health, the environment, agriculture, and overall quality of life, for all citizens of the state. As governor, I will leverage the power of the University of Wisconsin System and their faculty to inform and guide decisions on policy. I’m also an avid reader and interested in science generally. I will create a Scientific Council of advisors to help advise our administration and keep us abreast of developments in the science and technology sector.
Next, we must restore the independent head of DNR, appointed by the Natural Resources Board (once the board has pro-science, pro-conservation appointees), to get politics out of regulatory decisions. Environmental law and order must be restored in Wisconsin as we have We must stop allowing polluters to essentially write their own permits with little oversight, and we must restore a robust enforcement of our environmental laws so that polluters pay to clean up the damage they cause.
We should expand the DNR’s science staff and put science at the core of environmental decision making. As Governor, I will remove political interference from DNR staff,allowing experts to discuss climate change and testify on proposed legislation, and stop overruling staff decisions to benefit political donors. We need to fully fund the DNR so they have adequate capacity to review permits and do ongoing inspection and enforcement and work with the Attorney General, DNR, and the EPA to ensure that all environmental laws are being followed, and those who break the law are held accountable.
To give one illustration of where I am coming from, science should be at the heart of natural resource protection decisions made at the Department of Natural Resources, and the large number of staff scientists at the DNR who have been let go must be brought back. Top administration officials, including the governor, should be relying on those staff scientists as policy direction is being set. The decision to scrub any mention of climate change from the agency’s website should be reversed. Broad scientific consensus on the topic needs to be acknowledged and respected. Perhaps most importantly, the true spirit of the Wisconsin Idea must be revived. The boundaries of the university truly do need to be the boundaries of the whole state, and scientific discoveries on university campuses must reach and benefit every nook and cranny of Wisconsin. State lawmakers used to consult regularly and rely heavily on the expertise of UW System faculty as they made decisions on public policy issues. In more recent years, faculty members have been made less welcome and have effectively been instructed to keep their distance from the Capitol. That has to change. The best thinking coming from our universities needs to be incorporated into public policymaking again.
I will listen to experts. By reaffirming the mission statement of the University of Wisconsin, I will re-establish the Wisconsin Idea so scientists are directing the work of politicians, not the other way around. I also have a strong personal interest in the history of math and the history of science. I have published two novels in which mathematics figures prominently in the plotlines. I enjoy staying informed on scientific advancements.
Again, I believe that an administration is as strong as the people who serve in critical posts. No one person has the answers to every problem, and a diverse set of opinions and experiences allows for better decision-making. I will recruit individuals with science backgrounds and relationships with the research community to my administration. I am firmly committed to using the best and most current scientific knowledge to make decisions that impact the state. I understand and appreciate science’s role in areas ranging from education, the environment, to the state’s economy.
As Governor I will create a science advisory council to keep my administration informed on breakthroughs in the scientific research. I will restore the tradition of the “Wisconsin Idea” partnering with our universities to shape well researched, evidenced based policies. I will begin an annual Wisconsin Ideas Summit bringing people innovating in communities from across the state together to discuss, design, and develop new science-based ideas throughout Wisconsin.
I’m firmly committed to the advancement of science and making practical applications to public policy wherever possible. Where appropriate, scientists will be involved in the process, such as the department of natural resources. I’m a firm believer in science, and it’s unfortunate we need to even have conversations debating the merits of scientific findings or methods. I will listen to the professionals and take their recommendations into serious consideration. Staying informed is key, which is why I will encourage my staff and department heads to partner with organizations and institutions that can lend insight into new findings, such as our own UW-Madison. As governor, I don’t want us to chase trends; I want us to lead the way for other states to follow and integrate the nest new ideas and policies for the 21st Century.
I will always consult relevant scientists and scientific research in making decisions, and am committed to staffing departments of state government with scientists appropriate to the mission of that department. One good example is the DNR, which the current administration has politicized. I pledge to return the DNR to the supervision of scientists who will provide unbiased, evidence-based solutions to environmental challenges we face.
I will restore a commitment to science at the DNR, and actively promote the UW-Extension state-wide. I will promote business development activities throughout our wonderfully diverse economy in ways such as technology transfer that don’t rely on the provision of tax credits to out of state corporations. Scientific advances in instruction should be helping our education system improve our bottom quartile outcomes in reading and math. Advances in science and the humanities are essential to our state’s ongoing ability to compete.
Manufacturing is making a big comeback in Wisconsin. How should Wisconsin manage the environmental impact of industrial activity while remaining an appealing location for new business?
Everyone must follow the same rules. We must protect Wisconsin’s natural resources. We must internalize the costs of production processes. Otherwise one business disadvantages all others.
The question implies that for a location to be appealing the environmental standards must be relatively lax. The major reasons why a location appeals to any business are the presence of: a skilled workforce, good schools, a university, access to reliable and efficient transportation systems, safe streets, amenities attractive to prospective employees, health care providers, recreation and an attractive environment. A location with those qualities appeals to every business. Check out the places that make the “ten best …. “ lists for starting or locating a business.
We will not compromise environmental protections. I know that in the long run what is environmentally sound is also the most economically sound when examining all of the externalities.
I want to make Wisconsin the best place to not only raise a family, but also grow a business. Our highly-skilled manufacturing workforce and world class research institutions make Wisconsin the perfect state to lead the way on the creation and implementation of new, clean energy technology. Wisconsin already has skilled workers and an advanced manufacturing base, and with a strong state commitment to renewable energy, we could help this burgeoning industry provide thousands of good-paying jobs. For example, we can spur growth in Wisconsin’s existing “sensors and controls” industry – our state has over 200 homegrown companies in this sector that stand to benefit from clean energy policies.
Our state has no fossil fuels, so every dollar we spend on dirty energy leaves our state and contributes to climate change. We can become energy independent by fostering local, clean, sustainable energy production, “smart” grids, better power storage, and multimodal transit options for people and goods. I’ll increase RPS to 30% by 2022, and 100% by 2050, and join the Paris Agreement. Clean, renewable energy is the future of our state and our country. Investments in renewable energy will help protect our environment, preserve our natural resources, and create high-wage jobs right here in Wisconsin. As governor, I will make our state a leader in renewable energy technology.
In the DNR, DATCP, the Attorney General’s office (including restoring the public intervenor), and private rights of action, I support holding polluters accountable and preventing new pollution from being created. Only by truly forcing polluters to pay for the externalized costs of their pollution can we build a cleaner, healthier society. As governor, I will oppose irresponsible resource extraction, including frac sand and metallic mining – restore the requirement that all mining proposals pass stringent environmental standards.
Last, Wisconsin should allow resource extraction only to the extent that it can be done safely – safely for workers and our natural resources. Unfortunately, the elimination of responsible mining regulation has led to significant environmental damage. We need strong protections for clean air and water, and I support resource extraction only when those safety regulations are followed for the health of everyone in our state. We must restore our “prove it first” approach, whether for metallic mining, sand mining, CAFOs, or any other resource extraction activity. Following responsible environmental practices means having skilled, trained, and highly paid workers on every job site.
Wisconsin is lagging badly in the development of clean energy alternatives to fossil fuel use and, as previously mentioned, the renewable energy industry has tremendous job creation potential while also being environmentally sustainable. Beyond that, we need new leadership in state government that stops presenting the false choice that we can either have a vibrant economy or a clean environment but not both. Environmental protection is not the enemy of economic development. A healthy economy and healthy planet can and must go hand in hand. There are three bottom lines in business, not just one. A truly productive and successful business is one that is financially profitable, one whose workers and customers are treated right, and one that is a responsible steward of natural resources. This is the standard for business success that Wisconsin needs to embrace. If we follow this path, Wisconsin can be a place where public health and the state’s natural resources are protected while the economy is stimulated and new employment for tens of thousands of workers is provided.
Responsible manufacturing processes are compatible with a strong commitment to our environment and to public health. I will not exempt some companies, e.g. Foxconn, from environmental laws that other companies have to follow. In fact, I will end the illegal Foxconn contract through litigation.
These issues are not mutually exclusive. For too long, we have treated them as if they are. Advanced manufacturing is popping up across the state in ways that respect its environmental impact and the community generally. But we cannot afford to compromise our natural resources and the regulations that safeguard them when a business comes along that promises the world. The costs and benefits of decisions must be weighed in a transparent fashion that allows for the free flow of information. Only then can we be sure that we are making the right choices in regards to economic development and our precious resources. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.
A “big comeback” of manufacturing is a bit overstated, as Wisconsin has been inline with or below national statistics for it’s manufacturing economy over the last several years. Employment and productivity in the manufacturing sectors rank below the United States as a whole, despite a wholesale movement away from vigilant environmental protections.
As Governor I will make sustainable manufacturing a priority, and encourage the growth of advanced specialized manufacturing including growth from our green energy initiative. My administration will focus on creating a highly skilled workforce for advanced manufacturing; incentivizing businesses to invest and grow in our state.
The choice between manufacturing and the environment is a false choice. Our Government 2.0 initiative, a comprehensive plan to modernize government, will create effective environmental protections without additional bureaucracies through implementing technologies such as API’s that can directly guide a business’s compliance efforts.
Any business in Wisconsin has an obligation to be a good corporate citizen. That means caring for our environment, it’s employees, and their communities. We cannot create a system of loosening regulations to attract business at the cost of environmental contamination, public health risks, or the loss of natural resources. We need to take a generational approach to environmental protection and work with businesses to ensure that our natural environment is clean, safe, and protected for decades to come.
We must uphold the property rights of residents to NOT be polluted. This basic obligation of government has been turned on its head by the current administration, especially, but not limited to, the environmental/legal exceptions granted to Foxconn.
WI is a fantastic location for almost any new business! We can and should always leverage our key competitive strengths while attracting new businesses to Wisconsin. Our uniquely diverse environment — and the beauty of our state– is literally our calling card. In my administration the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act and all other existing environmental laws shall be considered sacrosanct. We will restore the mining Moratorium. I will direct the creation of long term environmental protection and remediation goals.