WPPA Convention Hosts Forums for Attorney General and Gubernatorial Candidates

On May 21, 2006, the annual WPPA convention at the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells hosted forums for the individuals running for the offices of Wisconsin’s governor and attorney general.  Participating in the gubernatorial event were Governor Jim Doyle, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger, U.S. Congressman Mark Green.  The candidates responded to questions submitted by WPPA members and posed by WPPA Assistant Executive Director Jim Palmer.  The gubernatorial candidates addressed a wide variety of issues, including the Taxpayer’s Protection Amendment, state funding to local government, property taxes, mediation-arbitration laws for local public employees, arbitration of discipline for municipal law enforcement officers, and protective status for county correctional officers.

Gov. Jim Doyle

U.S. Rep. Mark Green


On property taxes and the state budget…

Gov. Jim Doyle was asked what WPPA members can expect in terms of cuts to state aids to local units of government in his next budget.

“Last session I signed into law the tightest property tax levy restraints in history while maintaining significant funding for vital local services like police and fire protection.  Even though our state faced the toughest fiscal shape in history when I took office in 2003, I followed through on the commitment of significant funding for local units of government through the shared revenue program.  I have followed through on that promise and intend to maintain it for the next four years.  I firmly believe that we can provide responsible property tax relief for our state’s residents while at the same time ensuring that important local services are not jeopardized.”

Rep. Mark Green was asked virtually the same question, in conjunction with an inquiry as to what he means when he publicly states that he will sign a “real freeze” in law.

“I believe that we must take steps to get Wisconsin’s fiscal house in order.  This includes my pledge to not spend more than the state takes in from taxpayers in the previous year while putting an end to the practice of using one-time money to fund ongoing government programs.  To do this, I believe we must prioritize state government spending.  It is important to note, this does not mean cutting all current levels of programmatic support, but rather reducing the rate of increase for specific programs based on our priorities.

Governor Doyle hypocritically talks to both sides of this issue resulting in a dishonest setting of our state’s fiscal priorities.  While he talks tough about freezing taxes and balancing the budget, he also talks about fully funding K-12 education.  He’s literally pitting one important service against another.  That’s not in the best interest of Wisconsin.

Governor Doyle has created a fiscal house of cards for the State of Wisconsin with his favored special interests holding the only Ace in the deck.  Meanwhile, the taxpayers pick up the tab in the form of future structural deficits that eat into revenue increases and jeopardize funding for core services.

I have a record of supporting law enforcement and feel strongly that public safety is one of the integral services that government must provide.  As a result, the interests of law enforcement will be included in these discussions and will be given a high priority.”

On protective status for jailers…

Both Gov. Doyle and Rep. Green explicitly indicated that they would sign legislation specifically classifying county jailers as protective status employees for purposes of the Wisconsin Retirement System.

On changing the mediation-arbitration laws for local public employees…

The candidates were asked about the bills introduced in the last session that would detrimentally  impact the mediation-arbitration laws for public employees.  Specifically included in the question were proposals to allow employers to make unilateral changes to health insurance, to prohibit arbitrators from awarding employees more in interest arbitration than the applicable levy limits, to prohibit arbitrators from awarding back-pay, and to eliminate the use by arbitrators of external comparables in their interest arbitration deliberations.

Gov. Doyle explicitly indicated that he does not and will not support any measure changing these laws.

Rep. Green“By and large, I believe that our current collective bargaining rules for state and municipal employees have provided the citizens of Wisconsin with a reliable and skilled workforce.  At this point, I do not see a real reason to change them.

While I acknowledge the current cost pressures of facing all levels of local and state government, I feel that many of those pressures are based on the soaring cost of health care.  As a result, I feel that if we address health care costs through consumer driven reforms, we’ll ease that pressure.

My philosophy has always been to try to approach labor relations with the understanding that what is in the best interests of labor is in the best interests of management.  That’s true of whether you’re talking about a manufacturing plant, the State of Wisconsin or municipal government.”

On the constitutional amendment banning gay marriages…

Gov. Doyle“The law in Wisconsin is already very clear:  marriage is between a man and a woman.  Republicans in the Legislature have used this simply as an issue to divide people.

I am also opposed to the amendment because of the enormous impacts the amendment will have on existing domestic partner benefits that have been negotiated in many employee-employer contracts in this state.  I believe those bargained agreements need to be protected in a contractual manner.”

Rep. Green“While I support Wisconsin’s Constitutional Amendment to be considered by voters across the state this November, I understand some of the confusion surrounding the issue.

According to constitutional law attorneys at the Wisconsin Legislative Council the amendment does not take away domestic partner benefits that have already been granted by local units of government, nor does it take away such benefits given by private corporations or companies.

Furthermore, it does not prevent these entities from giving such benefits in the future, should they choose to.  It doesn’t even prevent the state legislature from taking up a bill that gives a limited number of people benefits to people in sexual relationships outside of marriage, should the legislature want to do so.”

On arbitration of discipline…

Both Gov. Doyle and Rep. Green indicated that they would sign legislation allowing municipal law enforcement officers the opportunity to arbitrate their discipline.

On whether state legislation is required to enable retired law enforcement officers to carry a concealed weapon in accordance with the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004, or H.R. 218…

Gov. Doyle“H.R. 218 is the law of the land.  Attorneys with Legislative Council have clearly opined that no statutory changes are needed for local agencies to implement this law.  I don’t believe the hurdle of a state law is necessary.”

Rep. Green“First and foremost, I support the right of retired officers to carry and was a co-sponsor of H.R. 218.  I disagree with the current Attorney General regarding the need for separate state legislation to implement this bill allowing retired law enforcement officials to carry a weapon to protect themselves, the people they love and the community at large.

However, if that is what it takes to implement this policy, I would move forward with the necessary legislation.

I support allowing law-abiding Wisconsinites to carry a weapon – just as 48 other states allow.  However, I also believe that this can be done without jeopardizing law enforcement safety.  As to the provisions in the recent concealed carry bill that created new misdemeanors for law enforcement officers, I would hope that the bill that reaches my desk will provide strong protections for permit holders, without creating new crimes just for law enforcement officers.”

Participating in the attorney general candidates’ forum were Democrats Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager and Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, and Republican candidates J.B. Van Hollen, a former U.S. Attorney, and Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher.  Attorney General Lautenschlager participated in the event through a live audio feed from Stanford University in California, where her son was graduating from law school that afternoon.

J.B. Van Hollen, Kathleen Falk, and Paul Bucher

The attorney general candidates’ forum covered several topics, ranging from the challenges confronting Wisconsin’s law enforcement community, to how their individual philosophies would shape the Department of Justice in the years to come.

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