EAU CLAIRE — The race for Wisconsin’s 92nd Assembly District seat pits incumbent Treig Pronschinske against Amanda WhiteEagle.
Pronschinske, R-Mondovi, is an Eau Claire native and is seeking his third term in the Assembly. WhiteEagle is in her first race for state office, having previously served as a tribal judge and attorney general for the Ho-Chunk nation.
Pronschinske decided to seek re-election in part because “there’s some unfinished business that needs to be taken care of.” Government is not often able to progress in large leaps, he said, so it takes a more incremental approach.
Property taxes for rural areas are an example of what Pronschinske would like to see changed. Urban residents may own property with one, maybe two buildings in most cases. Agriculture requires more. A single farm can require several sizable buildings.
He would also like to close what he sees as a gap in the law. Most businesses can deduct the cost of employee health insurance from their taxes. Sole proprietorships, which includes some single-family farms, can’t.
WhiteEagle said she never envisioned a run for the Assembly, but “a series of events” led her to the conclusion she should seek office. Both her mother’s needs and her children’s plans play a role in what she hopes to accomplish.
“We need somebody in office that’s going to ensure that education is funded and make sure our educators have the resources they need,” she said. “My daughter is in tech college in Madison. I have two high school kids … and then an elementary school student. And I’m still paying off my student loans. They’re all thinking about college and I’m like, ‘Boy, how are we going to pay for this?’”
Both candidates agree on the need for better rural infrastructure, both in terms of traditional roads and bridges as well as better internet service. They disagree on whether efforts to push those issues forward are successful.
“We hear the stories of business owners or kids that have had virtual classes since the pandemic. You know how difficult that was through the school districts and a lot of the companies have stepped up to give mobile hotspots for these kids to get education,” Pronschinske said. “We do need to continue to do better at broadband expansion. In the last budget cycle we did an increase for broadband expansion.”
Pronschinske pointed to a bill that offered internet companies tax credits against property taxes if they improved rural internet speeds. If businesses don’t see a potential profit, he said, they won’t invest.
WhiteEagle said she’s not seeing the results the way she believes rural residents should. She drew on her own experiences trying to help her youngest child navigate online classes.
“Because we don’t have the best internet outside the city we come into the city, either go to my parents or to a coffee shop so that he can have access to internet that will allow him video streaming,” she said. “I’ve talked to some business owners, and one told me that if it’s a cloudy day he can’t get credit card sales. I can’t imagine running a business like that.”
The candidates also differed on whether rural road funding is adequate. Both agriculture and industry rely on rural roads to get their products where they need to be.
WhiteEagle thought the funding didn’t match the needs, saying she hears complaints about the roads from voters and sees portions of the 92nd District rated very low on national surveys of road quality.
“I’m hoping that I could be the advocate that would at least be able to tell people why it is we’re not getting the resources we need and why that’s falling on the back burner,” she said.
Pronschinske said roads are not a secondary concern.
“The last two budget cycles since I’ve been in the state Legislature there has been an increase in rural road funding,” he said. “Last session alone, to the counties and local municipalities, I believe it was an average of an 11 percent increase to road funding.”
WhiteEagle said this year’s election is of particular importance because of redistricting. The 2020 census will form the basis for new district maps.
“These next sets of legislators are going to have to come up with the maps that are going to affect the state for the next decade. So this election is going to be very important,” she said.
Pronschinske also has an eye toward a longer-term goal. He would like to see government find ways to create incentives, including through tax credits, for volunteer firefighters and others who serve their communities.
“We have a lack of volunteerism across the country. Younger folks are stepping up, but they’re stepping up at a lower rate,” he said.