Falk makes Superior pitch before primaryKathleen Falk has a plan for Wisconsin. It includes job growth, investing in education and healing the state.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Kathleen Falk has a plan for Wisconsin. It includes job growth, investing in education and healing the state.
“I have never seen the state so torn apart in my 60 years,” she said.
The Waukesha native has spent decades breaking the glass ceiling as an environmental attorney, the state’s Public Intervener and most recently as Dane County’s first woman county executive.
“Who better to stand up to Walker’s war on women?” Falk asked during a visit to the Telegram office Friday. Falk was the longest-serving executive in Dane County’s history. During that time, the county saw the strongest job growth in the state. When the economy faltered in 2007-08, Falk hammered out 24 contract agreements with the county’s eight unions to negotiate savings three years in a row.
“I am proof you don’t have to throw away 50 years of workers’ rights to balance the budget,” she said.
For those reasons and more, Falk said, “I have the best record to go toe-to-toe with Gov. Walker.”
Falk is one of four Democratic candidates seeking to challenge Gov. Scott Walker in the June 5 recall election. The others are Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Secretary of State Doug LaFollette and Sen. Kathleen Vinehout of Alma. A fifth candidate on the ballot, Gladys Huber, is a Republican running as a Democrat. The primary is slated for May 8.
Falk was on the forefront of the state recall movement. While many elected officials have thrown their support behind Barrett, Falk has an alphabet soup of union endorsements — AFL-CIO, AFT, WEAC, AFSCME and more. She also has the backing of organizations including the Sierra Club, EMILY’s List, the Women’s Campaign Fund and Young Progressives.
More than any elected official, Falk said, those grassroots backers are the “heart and soul” of the state, the ones who will make a difference at the polls.
One of the faces the former Dane County executive thinks about on her travels is that of a Brule man who she met in Ashland. The man, who is studying to be a teacher at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, said about a dozen of his classmates and friends have recently dropped out of the program.
“And that simple, sad state of affairs pains me as a mom who worries about the future of our state but as I hope our next governor,” Falk said. “What could be more sad than losing that next generation of people who do not see a future in education or teaching and what does that mean for the future of our state?
“I think of that young man a lot,” she said. “I think the heart and soul of Wisconsin is at stake here.”
The former Dane County executive said she would boost job growth in the area by controlling spending, investing in infrastructure and maintaining quality of life. Following Michigan’s lead, Falk said she would like to make Wisconsin a leader in the green energy industry. The state is the top pulp producer in the nation, she said, and that could translate into bioenergy opportunities. Being on the largest freshwater lake on the planet, Wisconsin could also take the lead in pollution research.
One of Falk’s goals is to restore funding that Walker cut from Wisconsin’s technical colleges without raising taxes. Instead, she would pay for it by repealing Walker’s Combined Reporting law, which provides tax loopholes for businesses.
The longtime environmental lawyer proposes to restore collective bargaining rights to public union employees through the budget, the one piece of legislature that has to pass.
She has also publicly taken a stand on the growing student loan debt crisis, vowing to implement the “Know Before You Owe” program throughout the state. The program, currently under development by the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would help families navigate student loan rules and regulations, and give them all the facts surrounding student loans.
Another face Falk carries with her is that of a Waukesha man. He told her he attended her political meeting — his first — because it made him sad that his sisters and brothers don’t talk to each other anymore.
“It is important that we heal our state and get people talking,” Falk said. “You can’t solve problems when you can’t talk to each other. And that’s what Gov. Walker’s done to our state.
“I’ve spent my lifetime building bridges and finding compromise and finding common ground and I’m eager to do that as governor.”