• WisPolitics

Thursday, May 31, 2012

 9:24 PM 

In final debate, Moulton and Dexter spar over impact of state budgets they backed

EAU CLAIRE – Former state Rep. Kristen Dexter charged Thursday GOP state Sen. Terry Moulton and Republicans in control of state government have hurt working families, the elderly and poor through the budget approved about a year ago.

"The policies of Governor Walker and Terry Moulton stacked the deck against the middle class," Dexter said.

Moulton countered the GOP inherited a state left in fiscal crisis by Gov. Jim Doyle and other Democrats.

"We put the state of Wisconsin in the best financial state it's been in for 15 years," he said.

The two met Thursday in their final debate before a rematch of their 2008 race for the 68th AD. Dexter, who beat Moulton in that Assembly race only to lose her seat two years ago, is challenging Moulton in a recall election for the Eau Claire area's 23rd SD.

The pair took questions during Thursday's edition of the West Side, an hourlong Wisconsin Public Radio program broadcast from Eau Claire.

Moulton said the collective bargaining changes Republicans pushed through were a significant tool in helping put the state's fiscal house in order and were meant to help local governments. Teacher layoffs were lower than prior years and some schools are even giving out raises, he said, as long as they didn't cling to old union agreements.

"Those school districts that rushed to sign new contracts without using the tools we gave them, they had those layoffs," Moulton said. "K-12 is still the No. 1 priority and it will remain that way."

Dexter replied that when she was in the state Assembly between 2008 and 2010 during the Great Recession, Democrats did not shy away from cuts.

"I actually made cuts to education," she said. "The cuts that we made, though, were shared by everyone across the budget."

But she said Walker's budget made education take a bigger hit than other sectors.

And she said while making public employees pay for a share of benefits – as Walker did – is something she is supportive of, she opposes the cuts to public unions' collective bargaining abilities.

Dexter attacked Act 10 as poorly written, because it did not give local governments a direction for proceeding with employee contracts without the previous union negotiations.

"It left municipalities, school districts without a clear way forward," she said.

Moulton said he wants to keep the "reforms" on collective bargaining in place and went as far as saying government employee unions are "against the spirit of democracy." He argued the unions had power akin to making legislation while holding crucial public services in the balance.

In the vein of taxation policies, West Side host Rich Kremer brought up a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article that stated Gov. Walker's biggest campaign donor – billionaire Diane Hendricks of Beloit -- paid no state income taxes in 2010.

Moulton said he was unfamiliar with Hendricks' situation or the article, but defended the nation's rich, saying they pay about 40 percent of U.S. income taxes.

"The top 1 percent of people area paying the larger share of taxes," he said.

Dexter felt differently and said it's indicative of the disparity of the state's current tax code.

"I would make it imperative that the richest woman in Wisconsin paid her taxes," Dexter said.

Dexter pointed to cuts in the earned income tax credit, homestead tax credit and education cuts made under the current administration, which Dexter said specifically hurt the elderly, working families and poor.

"Taxes were raised on the average family and the working poor," she said.

The final question of the candidate forum was on the bitterness of political discourse in the state. Predictably, the answers got a little pointed.

Moulton argued that polarization is a reflection of what's going on in the culture and felt it would be better if legislators from both sides could be more congenial.

He then said that was made difficult by the absence of 14 Democratic senators who fled to Illinois during the heat of debate on the budget repair bill.

Dexter responded that the senators were only gone for two weeks, yet Moulton was elected 1½ years ago. She said that was ample opportunity to repair relationships, but he didn't make the effort.

"There are many things that could've been done in the past 1½ years to quell that divisiveness," she said.

Moulton argued that while they weren't public, he did try to improve relations in the halls of the Capitol.

"You weren't at the private conversations I had in the hallway," he said to Dexter. "You weren't there."

Dexter retorted that none of his constituents in the 23rd District were there to witness the alleged attempts at peacemaking because they don't live in Madison.

-- By Andrew Dowd
For WisPolitics.com


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