JENNI’S BIG ISSUES
All children deserve a quality education regardless of where they live or who their parents are. This has long been a fundamental principle in Wisconsin, but during the past eight years the once universally admired Wisconsin public school system and world-class university system has suffered from severe erosion and serious damage. This has been deliberately the consequence of deep cuts in funding and radical changes in public policy.
As the mother of five children—all students in our public-school system—I am appalled at the massive reductions of state support for the schools and the gigantic shift of that burden of school funding to the property tax payers. These reductions have produced a substantial rise in class sizes, declining test scores in mathematics and science, and a precipitous shortage of well-qualified teachers. Now, the annual syphoning off of $269 million in school funds for vouchers to subsidize 36,249 students who choose to attend 238 publicly unaccountable private schools, which are overwhelming religious institutions, is making a bad situation much worse.
As a member of the state legislature, I will work tirelessly for the creation of an entirely new and fair comprehensive funding formula for our public schools—one that does not penalize Manitowoc and richly reward schools like those in Waukesha County. Also, I will work in support of a major reinvestment of resources in the educations of our children to the degree promised by the administration of Governor Tommy Thompson, the restoration of the rights of teachers that were stripped away by Walker’s notorious Act 10, and end of austerity for the UW System. Also, I will vote for the complete termination of vouchers and all policies aimed at the privatization of our public schools.
A LIVING WAGE
Since 2011 Wisconsin has experienced a dramatic and disturbing increase in child poverty rates, immovable wage stagnation, along with greater and greater income inequality. Wisconsin currently suffers from the most sever erosion of the middle class of all the states in the country and we have become a society in which the top 1% of the people make nearly 20 times the average income of the remaining 99% of us. In Manitowoc County 34% of the families do not earn enough to meet the minimum cost of living expenses. This is a completely unfair and inequitable situation quite deliberately created and promoted by the massive tax cuts mostly beneficial to those who are already wealthy and large corporations and are the consequence of the radical anti-labor legislation which has so characterized Walker’s methods of governing.
Along with an escalating number of my fellow citizens, I must work two or three jobs to support my family at a level that barely provides for our basic necessities. That, of course, leaves little time or human energy to address the emotional, social, and educational needs of my children. So many of the people of Wisconsin are caught in this exhausting and demoralizing rat-race of working all the time and still not earning a living wage in a state where the government is working overtime to enhance the privileges of those who already have much more than their fair share.
As a representative of the people I will be dedicated to advancing the interests of this state’s working families and the cause of reforming our public policies to create an economy that works for everyone. That must start with a substantial increase in the minimum wage and an abrupt end of the “divide-and-conquer” tactics which currently prevail and turns working people against working people for the benefit of the rich. I also favor a repeal of the so-called “right to work” law which undercuts the ability of working people to co-operatively advance their own most vital interests and call for the restoration of Wisconsin’s long standing “living wage” law.
With the decline in the number of employers willing to provide healthcare benefits to their employees, along with escalating insurance premiums, which have more than doubled in the last decade, at the same time wages have remained stagnate the healthcare situation is a disaster waiting to happen for most people living in Wisconsin. Almost every working family precariously lives on the brink of bankruptcy. They are one serious sickness away from financial ruin.
Here in Wisconsin health insurance premiums are double what people pay in Minnesota, and here reimbursement rates for Medicaid and Badger care and the second worst in the entire country.
It is high time we stopped punishing people for being sick and in need of medical attention. We need to finally stop the political games an accept the federal Medicare and Medicaid funds and put the wellbeing of people ahead of the corporate interests and profits of the insurance companies.
MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT
The time for expanding and improving the care and treatment for our people suffering, yet largely neglected, with mental health and substance abuse afflictions is now dangerously overdue. Such problems have reached epidemic proportions, especially among the younger members of our population.
This is particularly and personally important to me because of the tragic loss my brother. He did his duty and served as a soldier in Iraq, and upon his return to civilian life was unable to get proper care and treatment for bipolar disorder which was made much more severe by PTSD. The system didn’t work for him. It made no place in its schedule to help him survive. In the end, caught in the darkness of extreme depression, he took his own life in 1999.
We need to do better and do so in a big way. And we need to stop using the criminal justice system to conceal problems this state government does not wish to pay for on behalf of our people. We have a moral imperative to address these needs and we can start by changing state regulations which now create almost insurmountable barriers for people seeking primary and emergency mental health services.
Wisconsin is the home state of environmental giants the likes of Gaylord Nelson, Aldo Leopold, and John Muir, and yet we have had one of the very worst environmental records in the entire nation during the past eight years. We used to lead the nation and even the world in environmental policy, now with a science-denying attitude we are poisoning our own waters and destroying the natural beauty of our land. It’s shameful, but it is also a serious threat to our health and well-being. And most of it is being done to benefit the corporate bottom line.
Here in Wisconsin we still rely on dirty, lung-harming coal for 66% of our electricity supply. There is a out-of-control crisis in drinking water in Kewaunee County where more than a third of the wells contain water not fit for human consumption, and streams and even lakes are being diminished and drained by the high capacity wells now permitted in the Central Sands region of the state. Meanwhile, the Republican-dominated state Senate has passed a bill to revoke all the state’s air pollution regulations, and the deal with Foxconn will result the destruction of substantial wet lands and the industrial consumption of 7 million gallons of Lake Michigan each day.
For the sake of our health and the well-being of generations yet to come we must begin now to undue the lethal web of anti-environmental policies which are quite literally destroying our natural environment. Deals like the those struck in favor of Foxconn and the Gogebic Iron Mining Company need to be modified or repealed, and the DNR must be depoliticized and scientifically revitalized to protect us all from the consequences of the ruthless degradation of the natural environment now occurring.
We all know from our own spine-jolting experience about the atrocious conditions of our roads. In fact, Wisconsin has some of the very worst roads in the entire country and there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the safety of our bridges.
The current conditions of Wisconsin’s infrastructure are a threat to both public safety and our economy and should not be tolerated any longer. We need a comprehensive funding formula which enables the state to provide and maintain a safe and modern transportation system.
AFFORDABLE SAFE DAYCARE
In virtually all the counties of the developed world parents are provided with a well-regulated, professionally capable, affordable system of child daycare. Such services are essential to economies in which all parents, both single and married, participate full-time in the work force out of necessity. But not in Wisconsin.
Here parents are on their own in what amounts to a poorly-regulated, extremely expensive, haphazard system of childcare which often costs as much as a year’s in-state college tuition in the UW System for each child in need of the services. In fact, Wisconsin ranks in the top 15 most expensive states for daycare, generally costing an average of $1000 a month especially for infant care. This creates a predicament in which families can hardly afford to go to work. This is a system bad for families, especially bad for mothers, and detrimental to the state’s economy.
As a single parent of five children I know only too well of what I speak. For struggling families and an economy starved for an adequate supply of workers action must be taken to alleviate this problem.
Because the current administration has deliberately chosen to refused federal funding to expand broadband services, less than half the families of the state have internet speeds that meet the federal definition of “high-speed” internet.
Many people had hoped the internet would be an inexpensive equalizing force for rural areas. There, entrepreneurs would be enabled to start up businesses in the state’s smaller communities, and school children would have access to the same information as their peers living in urban areas.
This flagrant neglect of our state government has left too much of our state and too many of our people disadvantaged and falling behind the modern world. I will work to change this.
As a mother of five children who have lived through the heart break of having their father deported I have made every effort possible to stop the separation of families.
In 2012 Wisconsin remover the right of immigrants to have driver’s licenses and in 2015 made the second offense of driving without a license a crime resulting in the denial of an immigrant’s ability to adjust his or her status.
These policies are shortsighted and punitive in ways injurious to the fundamental economic interests of the state, injurious to countless families, and cause more problems than they solve.
Demographically Wisconsin is an ageing state with a rapidly shrinking work force, yet it takes government actions that makes matters worse. We are the “Dairy State” in which small family farms are being rapidly replaced by huge, factory-like farms in need of a large and dependable supply of low-wage labor. This is emphatically the case in Manitowoc County, which produces 13% of the state’s total milk output. In 2012 a census was taken of the county’s dairy farms which documented that 87% of the dairy workforce consisted of immigrant labor. In other words, not a single dairy farm in Manitowoc County could continue to operate without immigrant workers, many of whom are “undocumented.” Also, for the good of the farms and the good of the immigrant workers they must be able to drive legally in Wisconsin. Because of that I am committed to helping push forward a public policy which grants driver cards for immigrant workers to allow them to legally drive on Wisconsin roads. This is not only in the best interests of the farms that employ them, but it will make the roadways much safer for everyone who uses them. It is a fair, reasonable, and low-cost solution to a significant problem.