Gubernatorial candidate shares views
Mary Burke makes a swing through NW Wisconsin as she seeks the Democratic nod to run against incumbent Scott Walker next fall
Danielle Moe | Staff writer
NORTHWEST WISCONSIN - On Oct. 7, Mary Burke, Madison school board member, former Wisconsin Commerce Department secretary and former Trek Bicycle executive, announced that she would seek the Democratic nomination for governor in the fall 2014 election against incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Burke, 53, is currently the only declared Democratic gubernatorial candidate, and with the exception of being elected to the Madison Metropolitan School District school board, has never held a political office.
This past Sunday, Dec. 1, she attended the Washburn County Democrats holiday party held at Foxxy’s in Spooner.
“It was a great opportunity to see a lot of people, get to understand the issues that are important to them,” Burke said in a phone interview.
Of the numerous problems in today’s headlines, Burke said that the issues around jobs and access to affordable health care are the most important to people across Wisconsin. In 2007, she resigned as Wisconsin commerce secretary but, before doing so, criticized the commerce department for their lack of initiative to create jobs. Today, Burke feels the same passion and said, “I think that we do need to make sure we are being as aggressive as possible in terms of job creation ... the state needs to be more supportive in terms of helping companies find the capital that they (small businesses) need to expand.”
Burke thinks that by focusing on helping entrepreneurs, small businesses and new businesses get started, it will help to encourage Wisconsin’s struggling job market.
Burke stood by her opposition to legislation passed in March of this year that lessened the powers of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, alleviating pressure on the $1.5 billion open pit mine project planned for the Penokee Hills in northern Wisconsin. According to the Wisconsin Legislative documents the 2013 Wisconsin Act 1 is written to repeal, amend, recreate, and create numerous statutes within existing regulations related to ferrous metallic mining including procedures for obtaining approvals from the DNR for the construction of utility facilities, making an appropriation, and providing penalties.
“Yes, there was legislation proposed that was bipartisan legislation proposed by Sens. Jauch, Cullen and Schultz, which had the environment protections that would have safeguarded our air and our water and now it is pushed aside for this other legislation that did not, in fact, do that, and so I would definitely want to see that legislation repealed,” she said.
With a recently updated website, Burke offers an issues section which states her support for the rights of workers to collectively bargain. If elected governor, she would work with the Legislature to implement laws that would bring back collective bargaining.
“We would have to bring people together to do that, and it certainly, with the current Legislature, will be challenging but that is what governors do, and that is what we have to focus on for the long term.”
Another devisive topic is the states expanding school choice program, which has operated in Milwaukee for the past 20 years. The program allows low income students in the public school system to attend private schools at $6,442 a voucher, the taxpayers expense. In 2011 the program was expanded to Racine with vouchers for 250 students, then 500 in 2012, and an unlimited number to be allowed in 2013. As an active Madison school board member Burke feels the program should be limited to start. “Secondly would be working with the Legislature to eliminate the provision that even allows for the 500 or 1,000 students (vouchers),” said Burke.
She went on to iterate that research into the program has not proven its effectiveness, but research has not been proven conclusive to favor either sides argument. Burke visited the communities of Hudson, Amery, Rice Lake and Spooner last weekend.