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Monday, Aug. 25, 2008

State Representative Pedro Coln

State Assembly 8th District Candidate

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Name: State Representative Pedro Coln

Website: www.colonformilwaukee.com

Occupation: State Assembly Representative and Attorney

Membership in the Democratic Party: I have been a member of the Democratic Party for more than 10 years.

  Who has endorsed you?

  Mayor Tom Barrett; Congresswoman Gwen Moore; State Senator Tim Carpenter; State Representative Josh Zepnick; Supervisor Peggy West; Alderman Bob Donovan; SEUI - WI; AFSCME - Local 48; AFT - Local 212; Wisconsin Laborers' District Council; Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin; WEAC; National Association of Social Workers

  Why are you running for the state Assembly?

  As a husband and father of two young daughters, I believe nothing is more important than the safety of our neighborhoods. That's why I fought to put more police on the streets, bringing back over $500,000 to Milwaukee last year. We also have a responsibility to give young people alternatives to crime. Working with other state leaders, I pushed for and won funding to create a successful summer jobs program last summer. Mayor Barrett called the program extremely effective in the war against gangs and crime.

  Working with community crime fighters like the Southside Organizing Committee (SOC), we have made real progress in cleaning up parts of our city. There is much more work to do. Thanks to our partnership, SOC volunteers have more resources to help make a difference. Thanks to my work with the Latino Community Center, the School Safety Improvement Project for violence-free schools zones is growing stronger. I'm running for another term in the State Assembly to make sure Milwaukee gets the state money we deserve to make our streets safe again.

  What are your qualifications?

  There's no substitute for experience. My nine years of experience in the state Assembly helped me win important tax breaks for senior citizens and working people last year. I was able to eliminate the state tax on Social Security benefits. My hard work also paid off for working families, and we passed more than $150 million in targeted tax cuts last year. These tax cuts will help Milwaukeeans pay for the high costs of health insurance and retirement.

  As the son of a Milwaukee Public School teacher, I learned the value of hard work very early in life. I graduated from both Marquette University (BA, 1990) and UW-Madison (JD, 1994), and went to work serving my community in the State Assembly. I never stop working to support great community organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, where I'm a board member. In the past, I've also donated my time and leadership to St. Ann's Center for Intergenerational Care, Future Milwaukee, Wisconsin Citizen Action and Centro Legal.

  What are the biggest challenges facing your district?

  Like too many Milwaukee neighborhoods, my community has been impacted by crime. As I mentioned above, I am working to put more police on the streets and give young people real alternatives to the street. We also need to do more to protect the working men and women who built our neighborhoods and made them strong. To truly honor our senior citizens and their achievements, we need to expand neighborhood health care services, keep taxes low and make life-saving medicines more affordable.

  I also have a lot of young people in my community, and education is always a top concern. As Milwaukee's voice in the State Assembly on many budget issues, I worked hard last year to find $27 million in new funding to expand the SAGE program and $3 million to expand kindergarten programs for 4-year-olds. I'm especially proud of our work to support veterans with $32 million in new money to help our men and women in uniform pursue a higher education degree after their service has ended.

  How will you ensure that Milwaukee has adequate state aid at the same time the state has a large structural budget deficit?

  During this past budget, I worked closely with Governor Doyle and Mayor Barrett to ensure that Milwaukee state aid it needed. I was able to bring much needed funding to Milwaukee Public Schools in the form a new High Poverty Aid Program authored by myself and Sen. Lena Taylor. This program brings an additional $17 million to MPS and we were also successful in granting MPS $10 million to fund more math and science programs.

  I was disappointed that the governor's plan to increase the Real Estate Transfer Fee was not adopted by the Republicans. The plan would have generated $126.6 million in 2007-08 and $139.5 million in 2008-09. This money would have gone to assist counties in funding things such as the circuit courts and youth aids. But the GOP-controlled Assembly refused to adopt this measure.

  How will you spur job growth in the Milwaukee area?

  The next generation of good-paying jobs in Milwaukee will be linked to our role as a regional power. I fought for-and won-$32 million in spending authority for development of high-speed trains between Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago.

  I was also pleased to work with other state leaders and bring $55 million back to Milwaukee for reconstruction of the 6th Street Viaduct bridge (1999 State Budget) and $10 million for Canal Street reconstruction and improvements. Canal Street reconstruction alone will help bring 5,000 new jobs to the Menomonee Valley (2001 state budget).

  Do you support a comprehensive health care plan like Healthy Wisconsin? Why? If not, what would you prefer?

  Yes, my goals are consistent with those of Health Wisconsin. I believe we must control health care costs and move toward universal access to health care. This past session as a member of the Joint Committee on Finance, I was able to push for passage of an expanded BadgerCare program that will ensure that all families at or below 200% of the federal poverty level will be covered by health care.

  I was able to work in a bi-partisan fashion with my legislative colleagues, Governor Doyle and Wisconsin's Congressional delegation in order to save SeniorCare, a program that provides prescription medication assistance to our senior citizens.

  Should private insurers be required to cover autism spectrum disorders and comprehensive mental health treatment?

As a member of the Joint Committee on Finance, I worked to have autism funding included in the state budget. Unfortunately, the Assembly Republicans allowed my measure to die in the state House.

  Do you believe that the Milwaukee School Choice Program is a success? Why? Should it be expanded to other parts of the county or state? Should it be eliminated? Do you want to change the way the program is funded?

  There is no question that we have seen some successes in this program. However, there have also been some disturbing failures and misuse of taxpayer money. I do not feel that this program should be expanded any further at this time. In fact, I believe that these schools that participate in the program should have to meet the same standards that apply to public schools that receive taxpayer dollars.

  I do support changing the way these schools are funded. The Assembly GOP proved that they had no interest in fixing this funding flaw. In fact, when they wrote their version of the state budget, they not only ignored the funding flaw, they expanded the program statewide. Thus, I worked with Sen. Lena Taylor to create plan that got an additional $27 million in funding for Milwaukee Public Schools.

  Do you support a statewide smoking ban that includes bars and restaurants?

  It is unfortunate that this issue did not get taken up this legislative session. I fully support a ban on smoking in restaurants. However, it is difficult to support a total ban on people who wish to use a legal product in a bar that does not serve food.

  Do you believe that the state should ease its restrictions on building more nuclear power plants?

  I would not support an end to the moratorium on building more nuclear power plants. Instead, we should focus on other clean, alternative energy sources such and wind and solar, tax incentives for hybrid cars are the route I would like to see us take.

  Should children of illegal immigrants who graduated from a Wisconsin high school be able to pay in-state tuition at a state college?

  I have been the author of this legislation for nearly my entire tenure in the state Legislature. The state of Wisconsin is required by law (Supreme Court - 1982 Plyer v. Doe) to educate all students K-12 regardless of citizenship. Thus, I feel that these children who were brought to this country by their parents should not be punished for actions of their parents.

  I have worked with Governor Doyle to have this item placed in the state budget but it was pulled out by the Assembly Republicans.

  Under my proposal, a person must graduate from a Wisconsin high school or received a GED; the person must be present in the state for at least one year; and the person who enrolls in a UW system or WTC institution must state they will file an application for a permanent resident visa.

  If Roe v. Wade were overturned by the Supreme Court, would you vote to allow a woman the right to choose an abortion?

  I support a woman's right to choose that is consistent within the framework of Roe v. Wade. In this past session I supported legislation that allows women access to emergency contraception in the cases of rape. I have also opposed legislation that would allow a pharmacist to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control.

  Would you vote to allow Milwaukee County to raise the sales tax one cent to provide property tax relief and pay for transit, parks and the arts?

  As a member of the Joint Committee on Finance, I worked for passage of Governor Doyle's plan to create a County Aid Fund. This new program would have been funded through an increase in the real estate transfer fee and would have generated significant revenue for Wisconsin's counties. According to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the County Aid Fund would have generated $126.6 million in 2007-08 and $139.5 million in 2008-09. This money would have gone to assist counties in funding things such as the circuit courts and youth aids.

  I believe that the Legislature must work cooperatively with local government and push for creative ideas such as the County Aid Fund to better address local government financing, so that we don't have to resort to increasing the sales tax.