MADISON, Wis. - State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers has been elected three times to his current post, but says he can do more as governor. He's running as a Democrat against Republican incumbent Scott Walker.
News 3 sat down with him for an interview on a number of issues, this is our interview edited for time and clarity.
News 3's Jessica Arp: What pushed you to run for governor?
Tony Evers: You know it was about my job as state superintendent. I ran the last time and had had great success and I was looking forward to another term. But as I kind of moved away from the election and looking forward to the future I realize that -- I know there's glass ceilings for lots of people, women especially, but that there's a glass ceiling for state superintendent as far as your ability to actually impact policy and resources. And so I decided whatever is best for the kids has always been what's best for this state. And so that's why I decided to run.
Arp: So what do you want to push past? What education-related initiative have you not been able to do as state superintendent that you would like to be able to do as governor?
Evers: To focus on equity. I mean that's a broad term but you know people think that equality is important piece but it's really equity. If kid needs an extra lift then they should get an extra lift and if they need that extra lift then it costs money and we should provide the resources. So it's resources-based but it's also how that money is distributed.
Arp: Would you raise taxes on anyone as governor? Would you raise any tax or cut any tax in plans that you are looking at?
Evers: Very likely look at reducing taxes for hardworking people that earn less than they -- for example in the state of Wisconsin we have 11 multimillionaires who will be getting $22 million in tax rebates because they're multimillionaires. I'm not sure that most of the people in the state of Wisconsin feel that's fair. So I think we'll be looking at some different options but at the end of the day I believe our tax system will be more fair.
Arp: Another issue that you've been talking a lot about recently is health care, and you rolled out a new plan that would you believe would reduce the cost of prescription drugs including a new state board and fines for some of the pharmaceutical companies for excessive price increases. Can you explain how that would work and even how one state could have that much power to influence the prices?
Evers: Well, other states are doing it right now. So I believe Wisconsin can do it. It is a huge issue. I'm a cancer survivor myself and I don't know how I could have afforded getting better without a good health care system in the state of Wisconsin. I've had it, so that's great. But we will have a board that will be working with state agencies to make sure you know-- we have a lot of purchase power in the state of Wisconsin, whether it's through the state employees groups or whether it's corrections or any number of other places. So we have some sway and decision-making on decisions being made by drug companies. We're going to make sure that they aren't gouging our state of Wisconsin and we can do that with this board.
Arp: You've talked, too, about saying that you would accept Medicaid expansion money -- which the governor has not -- in the future. But even if you win the governorship and if Republicans remain in control of the Legislature, they've said doing that is really a nonstarter. So if that's not an option for you if you were to become governor what would you do to reduce the price of health care for people in Wisconsin?
Evers: As I said our pharmacy plan will be one. But we do need help from the federal government. I believe at the end of the day we can bring Republicans and Democrats together. You know, I know right now it's election time so saying, "Evers we're not going to cooperate with you" is a good strategy for them. But we will -- they get it. It's their own constituents that are suffering. And if we can take the money from the federal government, just like lots of other Republican states that have, we can make a difference in the lives of people in the state. So I feel confident that we're going to be able to reach an agreement on that.
News 3's interview with Evers was done before a key campaign issue emerged of plagiarism found in sections of the Department of Public Instruction budget submissions. The panel at the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association debate asked what it said about Evers' credibility.
"If this is the best Scott Walker has, he doesn't have much, I'll tell you that," Evers said. "We dropped a few citations from the back pages of a budget. We talked to the people involved, it was a mistake, and they fixed it."
Evers will be on the ballot as a Democrat with lieutenant governor candidate Mandela Barnes in the Tuesday, Nov. 6 election.
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