Road funding and attack ads were impassioned topics of conversation on Wednesday in Eau Claire, where troops of campaigners, including the candidates themselves, made stops just over a week after the race for governor officially began.
Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Democratic primary winner Tony Evers all made appearances in Eau Claire, each with a different purpose: Walker to speak at a ribbon-cutting event for internet service provider WIN; Kleefisch to criticize Evers over a middle school teacher who in 2009 was found to be viewing explicit content on the job; and Evers to stress the importance of road funding in Wisconsin.
Walker and his opponent Evers — who will face off in the Nov. 6 election — have differing views on road funding, especially when it comes to raising the gas tax to fund construction projects.
“The bottom line is that we can get bipartisan solutions to this issue, and we can have people in Wisconsin feeling good about their roads,” Evers said in a news conference after his speech at Labor Temple. “Right now they don’t, and for very good reason. Everything has to be on the table, and gas tax is clearly one of them.”
Evers said he’s not yet ready to specify how much of a gas tax increase he would support, but in his speech noted that Iowa raised theirs by 10 cents a gallon. He also offered up cutting back on expenditures at the state level and examining tax credits as other possible solutions.
After his appearance at the WIN ribbon-cutting event, Walker told reporters his administration has done a lot to fund transportation despite criticism that it hasn’t.
“I think the question to pose (to Evers), is how much are they going to raise the gas tax?” Walker said. “We’ve been able to do that without raising the gas tax, to still put $24 billion into transportation ... We’re going to continue to increase the investment we make in transportation, and we’re going to do it without increasing the overall tax burden on working families and senior citizens in the state.”
Evers’ Eau Claire appearance was in conjunction with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s Fix Our Roads Tour, which has been lamenting the condition of the state’s roads.
According to that group, the average Wisconsin resident pays an average of $637 a year in car repairs due to poor roads. It notes that according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 27 percent of the state’s public roads are in poor condition. Thirty-two percent of public roads are considered “good,” which Evers said puts Wisconsin at the bottom of the pile in the Midwest.
The answer to that dilemma is not borrowing, Evers said.
“We can no longer, as Scott Walker has done, draw a line in the political sand and say, ‘We’re going to borrow for this,’” Evers said. “Borrowing does not work. Just take a look at our roads.”
At Kleefisch’s event at the GOP field office, she discussed an attack ad against Evers that criticizes him for declining to revoke the license of a Middleton teacher who was found to be looking at pornographic material at school in 2009.
The teacher, Andrew Harris, was fired after an investigation, but his teaching license was not revoked.
“This is not who we want running our state,” Kleefisch said of Evers, who is the current state schools superintendent. “This is not someone who should be even considering asking voters, the moms and dads of Wisconsin, for a promotion.”
Evers said he did not have the legal power at the time of the incident to revoke the teacher’s license.
“The fact of the matter is,” Evers said, “I could not revoke that license, and I worked hard to make the law changed so that I could in the future.”
Contact: 715-830-5828, email@example.com, @LaurenKFrench on Twitter