State Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) and Rep. Fred Clark (D-Baraboo) will be in Ripon for a candidate forum today at 7 p.m. The appearance will be carried live on The Ripon Channel (channel 97 in Ripon and channel 986 for Ripon-area Charter cable subscribers) and replayed numerous times before the Aug. 9 recall election.
I first asked most of these 14 questions when Clark was in Ripon for a campaign appearance in June; I've changed some of the questions based on events since then. Since he has not answered any of them, I suggest that those who plan to attend the forum ask these questions, or ask him these questions when he shows up again before the election:
1. What misconduct has Sen. Olsen committed (misconduct, not positions with which you disagree) that warrants his recall?
2. If you believe that Sen. Olsen's votes on the budget repair bill or the state budget or another bill warrants his recall, would you be OK with 42nd Assembly District voters recalling you for votes you've taken, such as your vote for $2.1 billion in tax increases in the 2009-11 state budget?
3. You call public employee collective bargaining rights a "fundamental human right." Cite where that right is listed in the U.S. or Wisconsin constitution, or in any document that inspired the U.S. or Wisconsin constitutions. Would you introduce a bill in the Legislature to restore all previous collective bargaining rights for public employees?
4. In a Ripon Commonwealth Press interview, you said that "I do not disagree that many public employee unions had bargained for benefit packages that were unaffordable." You also said, "I firmly believe that everything should be on the table. ... I always believed that we need to be doing something to lower costs of benefits. Did we need to require [public employees] to contribute more to health care benefits? Yes." Yet you oppose restricting collective bargaining rights. How would you propose that public employees' benefit packages be made affordable, now and in the future, without restricting their supposed collective bargaining rights?
5. Given the Department of Natural Resources' reputation as being anti-business, anti-farming and anti-hunter, and given that you are a former DNR employee, why should business people, farmers or hunters support your candidacy?
6. Despite the fact that the state has some of the highest government debt levels of any state in the country, the state is spending $60 million per year during this budget cycle to purchase land and take it permanently off the tax rolls for zero-impact recreational uses (which do not include hunting, fishing or motorized off-road-vehicle use). Why is this a good idea?
7. Explain how this list of your endorsers in your 2010 reelection campaign - AFSCME, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, the Clean Wisconsin Action Fund, the National Association of Social Workers, the Wisconsin Laborer's District Council, the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, Wisconsin Progress, and the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO - represents the mainstream of 14th Senate District political thought. (And by the way, where are your endorsers for this election on your website?)
8. In that Commonwealth Press interview, you said that "We have a structural deficit; we have to address that. We can't tax our way out of it; we do need to make cuts." What cuts would you favor that the state Legislature did not make? What tax increases do you favor that the state Legislature did not raise?
9. In that Commonwealth Press interview, you said, "The change I talk about is not getting us there; it doesn't get even get us halfway" to the then-$2.5 billion budget deficit. What should the state have done to eliminate the structural deficit other than what you voted against?
10. When you were in the majority party of the state Legislature, your party and Gov. James Doyle raised taxes by $2.1 billion (for which you voted), giving the state the fourth highest state and local taxes in the nation. And yet the state had a GAAP deficit of $2.94 billion (second largest per capita and as a percentage of gross state product in the nation) at the end of the 2009-10 fiscal year, had a structural deficit of $3.6 billion at the start of the Walker administration, and had bond ratings worse than every other Midwestern state except Illinois. Voters replaced Democrats with Republicans in statewide and legislative races Nov. 2. Why should voters now entrust Democrats in fiscal matters?
11. In that Commonwealth Press interview, you said, "I'm not a proponent of raising anybody's taxes, but a lot of people aren't [paying what they are supposed to be paying]. We should fund the Department of Revenue more to have more examiners." Do you oppose business tax breaks that have been created by the Walker and Doyle administrations?
12. In that Commonwealth Press interview, you said, "We need to set up a tax environment where small businesses can survive and thrive. We need to balance a growing economy and the environmental value of our ... lands. We should have an economy that can grow and protect our resources at the same time." When your party controlled the state Legislature and the Executive Residence, the state's business climate was consistently rated in the bottom quarter among the states. Your website claims you oppose "tax breaks and tax loopholes to large corporations," which are the largest employers in this state. What should the state be doing to improve the state's business climate that (A) the state isn't doing now and (B) your party didn't do when it controlled state government?
13. Per-student educational spending in Wisconsin is in the top third among the states and highest in the Midwest. And yet two-thirds of eighth-graders scored lower than "Proficient" according to the U.S. Department of Education's 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress. The Wisconsin Educational Association Council claims Wisconsin has "Great Schools." The state also has the fourth highest state and local taxes in the nation. Why should teacher unions' assertions about school funding get more weight than taxpayer groups' assertions about school performance vs. school taxes?
14. Wisconsin voters, including voters in the 14th Senate District, overwhelmingly rejected Democrats Nov. 2. Why should 14th Senate District voters now change their minds and vote for you?