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Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010

Longtime Legislator Peggy Krusick Challenged in Democratic Primary

Scott Dettman draws a sharp contrast on rail and transit

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Is this a bad year for incumbents—especially Democratic incumbents?

Voters on the southwest side of Milwaukee and Greenfield will decide that question on Sept. 14, when 27-year incumbent Rep. Peggy Krusick faces newcomer Scott Dettman. Krusick, who is championing her bipartisan votes, claiming that she “votes with her district,” stands in contrast to Dettman, who is more in line with mainstream Democratic positions on high-speed rail and mass transit.

The winner of this matchup will face Brad Sponholz, a Libertarian running as a Republican in the general election in November.

Peggy Krusick: ‘I Vote With My District’

State Rep. Peggy Krusick says she is running for re-election based on her “independent track record,” which includes voting against “an unaffordable $65 billion tax-and-spend state budget that raised our taxes, fees, car insurance and utility bills and more.” She said she is focusing on “ensuring that taxpayer dollars are well spent, jobs and quality education.”

“I always vote with my district,” Krusick said, the opinions of which she said she monitors through regular home visits and constituent surveys.

That includes opposing the $821 million federally funded high-speed rail line through southeastern Wisconsin and providing the Milwaukee County Transit System with dedicated funding via a half-cent increase of the sales tax.

“I’m fighting to direct limited taxpayer dollars to our neighborhoods to fix potholes, protect essential services and keep our streets safe rather than an $800 million train to Madison that we can’t afford,” Krusick said.

She said that her district is against the high-speed rail line. She acknowledged that the federal money could not be diverted to road repair or local law enforcement.

“The concern of my constituents is the ongoing cost of operation,” Krusick said. “They are concerned about the potholes in their streets and kids riding their bicycles and getting flat tires and damage to cars. They want basic street repairs done.”

Krusick said she opposed dedicated funding for Milwaukee County buses because her constituents opposed it in the November 2008 referendum. She didn’t have specific ideas to preserve the struggling bus system, which is set to terminate the Freeway Flyer service and five bus lines.

“I think everyone should work together and figure out an alternative to raising taxes,” Krusick said.

Krusick, who sits on the Assembly Committee on Jobs, the Economy and Small Business, said she votes against bills that include tax credits for businesses that do not target the middle class or guarantee jobs. She supports promoting angel and venture capital to start new businesses.

Krusick said the state budget deficit can be addressed by “being fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars.” Krusick has proposed allowing local government to place car boots on vehicles with unpaid parking tickets. The city of Milwaukee alone has $63 million of unpaid tickets, she said. The proposal would generate nothing for the state’s coffers. She also wants all state programs to be evaluated for waste.

A missed opportunity, Krusick said, was her push to make the first drunken driving offense a crime that includes jail time every time. It didn’t get a public hearing in the Assembly. A less punitive measure passed the state Legislature last session.

Scott Dettman: We Need More Active Representation

Scott Dettman, a health industry writer, said he was motivated to make his first run for public office because he was disappointed with Krusick’s votes and said that she votes in line with only the portion of the district she contacts.

“I feel like we need more active representation and leadership,” Dettman said. “I didn’t want to get angry, so I thought I’d get elected instead.”

His signature issues are education, job creation and security and economic sustainability.

“If there is a silver bullet, education is it,” Dettman said. “But I don’t think we’re doing enough to ensure that every child has access to a great education.”

Dettman would like to revamp the statewide education funding formula so that property taxpayers aren’t burdened with funding the schools and other essential services. He also opposes the voucher school system, which he said contributes to the problems at the Milwaukee Public Schools, but he supports partnerships between schools and local businesses so that students can hone their job skills.

On job creation and stability, Dettman would like to identify the qualities of businesses that the state needs and then go out and recruit them to the area.

“We want businesses that pay family-sustaining wages and have high job security, businesses that aren’t going to outsource their staff to foreign countries,” Dettman said. “We would also have to get banks and lending institutions to free up some credit so that individuals can start new businesses.”

Dettman said economic sustainability could come from taking a comprehensive look at the local economy and enhancing the green economy and local research institutions.

“We need to look at the resources we have in southeastern Wisconsin, like the Great Lakes, and harness that potential and use it to advance both our educational institutions and our economy,” Dettman said.

In contrast to Krusick, Dettman supports the high-speed rail line and said that while conservative talk radio dismisses the proposal, it’s in the best long-term interests of the state.

“People hear the talk radio talking points,” Dettman said. “But what they don’t realize is that we brought a business here [Talgo] that is going to be making trains for everywhere else in the country. We’re harnessing this economic potential by investing in this mode of transportation. And it’s just the first piece of the puzzle. It’s going to connect to Minneapolis. And when we can create this Midwestern rail transit it will be phenomenal for development along those lines and create opportunities for small businesses to open. It also allows for more free flow of commerce.”

Dettman said he supported creating a dedicated funding source for local buses since residents of the district and those who work in it rely on the bus system.

“We can’t make it more difficult for people to get to work or to job interviews by eliminating modes of public transportation,” Dettman said. “Milwaukee County can’t move forward and be a force in the 21st century unless we invest in public transportation.”

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