LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – Democratic incumbent Jennifer Shilling and Republican Bill Feehan both said their ideas can help small businesses in Wisconsin's 32nd District at Tuesday night's Senate Debate.
"What government has to do is create an environment where businesses can succeed," Feehan said. "When taxes are continually rising and we see increasing fees and ever new government regulations and compliance costs with those regulations, it hinders businesses from growing."
Shilling stressed the need to link employers up with skilled workers.
"We need to address the skills gap and we need to invest in our technical colleges," Shilling said. "We need to get that pipeline moving – getting people into training programs and then get them out so they can become productive members of society."
The broader debate over how to pay for various government programs and services occupied much of the night.
Shilling suggested the state re-examine returning to the 2/3 funding system for public education – which took effect in 1996 and was eliminated in 2003.
"Jennifer talks about returning to the 2/3 funding formula, but where are we going to find the money to do that if we don't turn around our economy?" Feehan said. "She's critical of the fact that we now spend more to incarcerate people in Wisconsin than we do on higher education. But my question is, who would she let out of prison?"
"There are many priorities we have to look at for the future, not just education," Feehan said.
"Don't tell me that I'm going to be letting people out of prison. My parents were murdered," Shilling shot back. "My parents were murdered and I know that people need to be held accountable and stay in prison for life. I'm not going to be letting out rapists and murderers."
"We can look at who's going into prison. If they've got substance abuse or OWI offenses we can look at those," Shilling said.
Both candidates also spoke of the need to eliminate the partisan divides in the State Capitol, with each saying they would reach across the aisle and work with the opposition party.
But their stances differed on Wisconsin's recall law, which is a major source of that partisanship.
Recall elections have been brought against the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and 13 State Senators since 2011.
"We need to raise the standard to some kind of criminal or ethical misconduct," Feehan said. "The problem with these recalls is that if we don't raise the standard, they'll just become another tool in the political playbook of the political parties."
"When Jennifer Shilling ran against then-Senator Dan Kapanke in her recall race, only 59-thousand people voted," Feehan said "Compared to 87-thousand and 88-thousand people that voted when Dan was elected previously."
"There (Bill) goes again taking his eye off the ball," Shilling countered. "Recall reform does nothing to create jobs in this state or to help with the economic recovery in this state."
"Changing recall laws to only apply in the cases of criminal misconduct would essentially mirror our impeachment laws, and I'm hesitant to take away citizens' constitutional right to hold their elected officials accountable," Shilling said.
The debate will air in full on WXOW Saturday at 12:00 p.m.
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