Tony Evers, the Democratic candidate for governor, said he believes programs and policies that benefit children best serve the state and its economy.

What’s best for children is best for state, he says

By Jason Arndt

Staff writer

Democratic challenger Tony Evers and incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker are locked in a neck-and-neck race for the state’s highest office with mere days remaining before the Nov. 6 election.

Recent polls have shown the race is tied, which suggests the future of the office is a tossup until voters settle the matter at the polls.

Since Walker sat down with Southern Lakes Newspapers for an interview about a month ago, poll numbers have tightened.

Evers, the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, told this newspaper in a Monday telephone interview he looks to unseat Walker because he believes the state can do better when looking out for the best interests of children.

Evers, who has served as state superintendent since 2009, said more could get accomplished under his leadership.

“I love my day job, but it became clearer and clearer that things that I want to accomplish with state superintendent could not happen as state superintendent,” he said. “I have always felt that what is best for our kids is best for our state, our state’s economy and our state’s democracy.”

Walker told this newspaper in a September interview the reason he trailed by five points, according to the Marquette University Law School poll at the time, was largely because of attack ads by opposition groups.

In response, Evers said some of the attack ads against him are either misleading, or untrue.

Evers, like Walker in the September interview, discussed his views on a wide-range of other topics, including pre-existing conditions, education funding and economic development.


Health care issues

The Affordable Care Act, which has been under national and local scrutiny, includes coverage for pre-existing conditions.

If the ACA is repealed, Walker publicly said the state will maintain protections for residents who have pre-existing conditions.

Evers, however, believes Walker’s current federal lawsuit opposing the ACA runs contrary to that pledge.

“What he has been saying is completely inconsistent with what he is doing,” Evers said. “He is in federal court right now to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, which would, if that happened, get rid of pre-existing conditions.”

About eight years ago, the state could have seen some health care costs drop, if Wisconsin would have accepted federal funds to expand Medicaid, Evers contends.

“Because of his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, he didn’t take $1.6 billion that was available from the federal government, that would have driven down costs in the state,” Evers said.


Education funding

Evers, who believes the funding system is broken, plans to invest more funds into resources for mental health services, special education and also seeks more equity among school districts.

While Walker invested a record amount of funds into public education in the recently passed budget, when that amount is adjusted for inflation, Evers believes the state has gone backwards.

“Scott Walker came into office and took $800 million out of the funding system,” Evers said.

“What I am going to be proposing in the next budget over the next two years, is to make sure we provide resources for those kids who are struggling, whether they come from homes that are impoverished or have disabilities,” he said.

He also looks to invest more into mental health resources, an issue Evers said has become larger in the wake of recent violence.

He acknowledged the funding formula is broken, and said it should be reviewed.

“Unfortunately, with Scott Walker, we have gone backwards, we have less state funding now than we have ever had before,” Evers said.

“It turns out, people locally are going to referendum right now,” Evers said.

Walker, in September, said fewer schools have sought operational referendums under his tenure compared to Democratic predecessor Jim Doyle.

Evers claims the University of Wisconsin system receives less state funding than the state corrections system.


Foxconn development

As Foxconn continues construction in the Village of Mount Pleasant in Racine County, Evers said the future of economic development lies within each community, and not out of state.

“I think it is more important that we have a 72-county effort to promote economic development with state officials and local officials working together,” he said.

While Foxconn will create an economic boom, recruiting more people and businesses to the state, Evers said it is important to promote business start-ups, expansion of existing businesses and encourage more entrepreneurship.

“It is one thing to have a Hail Mary pass with Foxconn and hope there is somebody there who will catch that ball, but at the end of the day, our economic future in the state of Wisconsin is going to come from all the cities,” he said.


Response to attack ads

Evers, who like Walker has been the subject of attack ads funded by outside groups, believes they are either misleading or false.

One attack ad claims he is dangerous, alleging Evers would release violent offenders from prison.

Evers said this is not true.

“I will say, without a doubt, violent people will be behind bars,” said Evers.

Additionally, Evers indicated former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson admitted regret for the state’s prison boom in an interview with a Milwaukee news outlet.

Thompson, in the interview, said vocational rehabilitation could help offset prison overcrowding.

“We had Tommy Thompson actually say, ‘Hey, we are overbuilding prisons,’“ Evers said.

“We have people that should be rehabilitated,” said Evers, offering an increase in treatment and work training programs.

“That is where we should be spending our efforts. In Texas, a red state, they have invested in rehabilitation and are saving a bunch of money,” he said.

One of the other ads claims Evers said, “Everything is on the table” in terms of taxes for infrastructure improvements.

Evers, who emphasized his plan to work with others to form a solution, states he never “said I would raise the gas tax a dollar.”