Evers makes pitch to be Wisconsin governor
Wisconsin's gubernatorial primary is 11 months away; the election nearly 14 months away, but the race to be Wisconsin's next governor is heating up.
Already 17 candidates — 11 Democratic — registering their campaign with the Wisconsin Elections Commission, candidates are making their way across the state to get their message out.
State Superintendent Tony Evers is among them and made his way to Superior Tuesday.
"I want to make sure Scott Walker is defeated a year from November," Evers said during an interview with the Superior Telegram.
"I believe, unlike present policy, that we need to invest in our people in Wisconsin, whether that's little kids in elementary school or preschool or high schoolers or the University of Wisconsin System, that is absolutely critical to our economy."
Investing in people is not only good for democracy, but would help rebuild the middle class.
While incomes of the very richest in Wisconsin have increased dramatically, the incomes of everyone else has stagnated, according to a report by the Wisconsin Budget Project. The income of the top 1 percent has increased by 130 percent since the late 1970s, but the remaining 99 percent have seen an increase of just 9 percent, the Aug. 8 report stated.
Evers, who has been in public service for about 42 years as a teacher, principal, superintendent, regional administrator and most recently as a three-term state superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction, said rebuilding the middle class is important to him.
"I understand their needs," Evers said.
The state superintendent who took 70 percent of the vote, and won in 70 of 72 counties in his last election, said politics rather than policy has set Wisconsin back in terms of infrastructure.
"Right off the bat, Gov. Walker turned down a large amount of money for broadband early on in his first term," Evers said. "Frankly, it was around politics, not around what people needed."
In early 2011, the state turned down a $23 million federal grant to expand broadband to schools and libraries, citing regulatory hurdles. Since then, the governor has implemented significantly smaller state grants to address the state's gaps in broadband availability in rural communities. The most recent round of state grants, totaling $1.5 million, didn't include highly-ranked projects in the north, according to Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Delta.
When it comes to highway infrastructure, Evers said the state really needs a transportation plan, something that is lacking now. He said his priority would be on fixing the roads Wisconsin already has, including local roads in cities and towns.
"Overall, we have a huge issue in the state," Evers said. "After that plan is put in place, I would say paying for it is the most complex part of it. We have a governor that said no new taxes and ... resorted to borrowing like crazy to fix some of our roads. I'm open to all options ... bottom-line, we can't do it by borrowing."
It's something local officials have been forced to resort to as budgets have been constrained by shrinking and stagnant shared revenue and state imposed limits on tax levy increases, a primary source of local revenue.
Evers said he supports allowing local government to raise revenue to meet their needs, whether that's through a local sales tax like the exposition district proposed by the Better City Superior initiative.
"Why the Legislature would say no to that is beyond me," Evers said. "Cities across the state are struggling and the state has to help them. Cities and counties need additional ways to raise revenue."
He said Wisconsin is unique in not allowing cities to raise their own revenue.
Evers said his priorities are to ensure there a growing number of jobs available, and the university and public school systems are strong, the latter of which lead to good jobs.
"Jobs and education are our top priority," Evers said.
He said another thing he hears a lot about is protecting natural resources and he favors an independent Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Evers said two of his strengths in entering the gubernatorial race is that he has demonstrated his ability to "run things" from schools to the state Department of Public Instruction, and he is willing to seek common ground to get things done.
"It's about seeking common ground so we don't sacrifice the good seeking the perfect; that makes no sense," Evers said. "I have that experience."