Peter Barca lays out the Democrats’ legislative agenda

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Peter Barca lays out the Democrats’ legislative agenda

Premiere Date: 
November 8, 2012

Peter Barca outlines the Democrats' goals for the upcoming legislative session.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:
As we mentioned earlier, voters flocked to the polls across Wisconsin Tuesday in near record numbers. The assembly remains in Republican control. Joining us now is assembly minority leader, Democratic Representative Peter Barca. Thanks very much for being here.

Peter Barca:
Frederica, good to be back with you again.

Frederica Freyberg:
So the Republican majority agenda includes a state budget with no structural deficit, mining, tax cuts and deregulation. How does that square with the minority's agenda?

Peter Barca:
Well, I think we can work with them on all those things, frankly, but we hope that they won't forget things, like trying to create jobs and closing the skills gap. Secretary Ernie Duncan, President Obama’s secretary of education, did an exhaustive study and found out there's two million Americans we could put back to work nearly immediately if we just close that skills gap. We put forward a package about a year ago, and it is time to finally get this done. We can't be insensitive to people who, you know, desperately need jobs and it will help our economy, help small businesses if people start remodeling their homes and buying refrigerators and new cars. We need it desperately.

Frederica Freyberg:
Have you been comforted at all by the words that you've read by Scott Walker and even Robin Vos that talk about potentially putting more money back into education?

Peter Barca:
Well, certainly it's desperately needed. 94% of the districts in this state had revenue cuts to their school aids over the course of the past two years. That's meant bigger class sizes in many districts across the state, it's meant fewer course offerings, fewer AP classes. So it is absolutely, desperately needed, and I hope this time they won't forget about their local public schools and only support these unaccountable voucher schools in Milwaukee. That was just so unfortunate, I thought.

Frederica Freyberg:
Are you confident that both sides will be able to, kind of, work together?

Peter Barca:
Well, I hope so. I mean, we've tried mightily last session to reach out to them. We offered plenty of alternatives. There wasn't a lot of responsiveness, because as Senator Fitzgerald said, they think compromise is not appropriate anymore. They had to push their agenda. But I think they've seen this polarization is not good for Wisconsin and most of these candidates that ran on both tickets, especially the Republicans, who had such an extreme agenda, this time ran as bipartisan moderates. So hopefully they'll be true to their campaign promises to their constituents. Because that's what people want. That's what they expect. Certainly, that's the Wisconsin way, so I’m hoping we can return to that.

Frederica Freyberg:
You just discussed trying to narrow the skills gap and we're told that state tax revenues are up. Are there other areas where you'd like to see any of that money go, if in fact it's going to be spent?

Peter Barca:
Well, I think, clearly when you can make an investment in job training programs and education, we know it's going to pay dividends. If you put people back to work, tax collections go up even further. Small businesses will do better and the economy will be stimulated. So that's just so important for us. Right? I can't think of anything more important. But then they talk about tax cuts and I say great, let's repair what we did last session where the Republicans raised taxes on people that work for modest wages, $9, $10 an hour. Let's help senior citizens whose taxes they raised with the Homestead Tax Credit. Let's start there because people who are in, sort of, jobs with honest wages, we know that they need it, and they'll spend it immediately and that will stimulate the economy. That's the most effective thing we can be doing, frankly, between-- on the tax policy front.

Frederica Freyberg:
Now, we've talked about working in a bipartisan way, but do you expect this to be a kinder, gentler, kind of, session of legislature than in the past?

Peter Barca:
Couldn't be any worse. Obviously, last session we just saw such tumultuous types of sessions. We saw rules flagrantly violated. We saw open meetings law. We saw constitutional violations that courts have since ruled on. And I don't think they want to go back to that anymore. I honestly don't. I certainly hope they don't. And, you know, and I think the people have spoken loud and clear. They reelected our president. They elected Congresswoman Baldwin. This is not-- this is a purple state, and I think we serve the people best when we do work together.

Frederica Freyberg:
All right. Peter Barca, thanks very much.

Peter Barca:
Thank you. Great to be with you, Frederica.


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