37th Assembly – Mary Arnold

Questionnaires were sent to candidates in the following races:

State Senate Districts 11, 13, 15
Assembly Districts 37, 39, 42 ,43, 44, 47, 49, 50, 51, 79, 81

All candidates received the same questions. The candidate’s answers have not been edited. 

What is your background and why are you running for office?

I am a 5 th – generation Wisconsinite, born and raised in the small city of Columbus.

I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked for a year as a VISTA volunteer in western Nebraska with Hispanic families.  I received my Master’s of Social Work in California, and during my career I have designed and directed programs serving pregnant and parenting teens, adolescent alcohol and drug abusers, troubled families, and employee assistance programs. For the last 20 years of my career I worked as a school social worker in Stevens Point. 5 years ago my husband Henry and daughter Emma and I moved back to Columbus to live in my childhood home.

I am in my second term on the Columbus School Board where I serve as vice-president. I volunteer for our local hospital, public library, and for the VA hospital in Madison.

I have been knocking on doors for many months talking with and listening to voters. Their biggest issues are the economy and jobs, affordable health care, education, and protecting our natural resources. I’m running to assure a better way of life for middle and working class families.

How are you different from your opponent?

My opponent has voted with the most extreme members of his party 99.7% of the time.  He favors privatizing public education, restricting women from making their own health care decisions, allowing outside corporations to re-write state regulations regarding our natural resources, and disagrees that Wisconsin is facing a budget crisis.  I am an independent thinker and will make decisions that reflect a concern for the common good, and not special interest groups.

The state is potentially facing a $1.8 billion budget deficit next year.  What areas would you cut to balance the budget?  If no cuts, how would you raise revenues?

Our budget is in big trouble and our economy is lagging behind that of our midwestern neighbors. We are facing a large projected budget shortfall as well as a structural deficit.

Our budget priorities should be public education, health care, protecting natural resources,  and investing in a strong middle class.

We need to protect our revenue more carefully than has been done under the current administration – we can’t hand out tax breaks, especially to the wealthiest citizens or to corporations until we know for sure we’ll have money in the budget to support essential programs and projects.

We also need to fund programs for the common good, and that are effective at safeguarding taxpayer money. For example, Wisconsin has one of the best public education systems in the country, and yet the Republican dominated legislature wants to invest public education funds in expansion of unaccountable private voucher schools that will cost us millions.

Our health care delivery system, also one of the best in the country, has suffered due to the Governor’s rejection of federal funds to expand coverage. It is estimated we could have saved 206 million dollars had we expanded coverage to include people at 133% of poverty, and that increases to between 260 to 315 million dollars in the next 2 years. It’s not too late to accept federal funding and it would be a wise fiscal move.

The Governor and Republican legislators have indicated that their priorities for the next legislative session include expensive proposals that will do nothing to help get us out of the budget hole they have dug for themselves. One example is imposing drug testing on those receiving public assistance funds. Yet when this program was tried in other states, it was discovered that less than 2% of those tested came up positive for drugs, and the program itself was very expensive to implement. Another issue is the proposed repeal of the Common Core standards which will undo years of work by school districts and also cost us millions in taxpayer funds.

The best way to raise revenue and boost our economy is to ensure that middle class families have money in their pockets to spend in their communities.

Transportation funding will likely be an issue the next legislature will grapple with.  Do you think the state should change the funding source for road projects?  If so, how should they be funded?

One problem with transportation funding is that the fund relies on the gas tax, but these funds are decreasing as the popularity of hybrids that get 45 – 50 MPG are increasing. During the last legislative session there was a committee that proposed some changes including fee increases, indexing the gas tax, raising the gas tax, and toll roads. None of the recommendations were voted on by the legislature and it is time to make some hard choices. Put them all on the table and come up with a plan, but let’s do something.

We need to address infrastructure repairs like bridges and train tracks, and more emphasis should be put on mass transit. The Governor missed the boat when he turned down federal funds for high-speed rail in 2011, a project that was estimated to have provided a 50 million dollar bump in Watertown’s economy.

What should the state be doing to promote job creation that it isn’t currently?

Job creation happens when well trained, well-educated healthy citizens can start their own businesses, which are then supported by middle class people with money to spend on their products or services. To that end, we should be supporting public education from pre-school through college, providing funds for training programs through our technical colleges, encouraging start-up businesses, and supporting the expanding technology field.

Had the current administration accepted federal funds for the high-speed rail project, many technical and manufacturing jobs would have been created, and had federal funds been accepted for expansion of the Affordable Care Act coverage, good paying jobs would have resulted in the health care field.

Would you expand or repeal Act 10, the collective bargaining law?

Our budget problems in 2010 resulted in large part from the nation’s recession, which came about from unscrupulous bankers making unwise financial decisions. Blaming state workers and teachers for Wisconsin’s budget woes was unjust, and the unexpected, hurried and secretive way in which it was done was not the Wisconsin way of openness, transparency, and fairness. The current administration and legislature seem intent on destroying unions and have indicated that the next step will be to declare Wisconsin a so-called right to work state. Collective bargaining and the labor movement have brought us many benefits as well as providing protections for workers.  I would work to undo the damage done to our state by Act 10.

What’s one thing on which you disagree with the majority of your party?

I can name two – the Democrats in control of the legislature in 2010 missed a chance to develop a nonpartisan system for redistricting, and consequently we now have a gerrymandered state map of assembly, senate and congressional districts that borders on the ridiculous. The village of DeForest, for example, has three different assembly representatives, and there have been far too many uncontested races this year because districts are considered safe for one party or another. Voters should be selecting their representatives, and not the other way around.

 I also disagree with some of my party who don’t believe in making first-time drunk driving a crime. Wisconsin is the only state that does not impose harsh penalties for first-time offenders, and as one who lost a parent in an accident caused by a drunk driver, I see a need for us to step up and acknowledge that our attitudes toward drinking and driving are enabling rather than helping our citizens.

What would be the first bill you’d like to author?

Education is an issue that is very important to me so a bill that would address a fairer form of funding would be one priority. However, I would talk with local leaders at all levels to see what measures they would like to see presented in the assembly.