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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

 9:18 PM 

Petrowski, Seidel bicker over bipartisanship, women's issues, mining

State Reps. Jerry Petrowski and Donna Seidel harshly criticized each others' bipartisan credentials during a debate Wednesday evening at UW-Marathon County.

The candidates in the 29th Senate District's recall election next month each vowed to work across party lines and find solutions for the district and touted their experience in that capacity during their respective Assembly careers.

But Seidel, D-Wausau, said Petrowski had enabled a "divide and conquer" agenda by the Walker administration and GOP leaders.

Petrowski, R-Marathon, fired back at what he described as the overly negative tone of Seidel's campaign.

Seidel said she had a proven record on jobs issues from her time in Assembly leadership in the 2009-10 session and said Dems went to the newly elected Gov. Scott Walker early this session with proposals to help the state create jobs.

"Jerry, 'Mr. Bipartisanship,' did nothing to convince his colleagues to consider any one of those bills," Seidel charged.

Petrowski, R-Marathon, said just one Dem jobs bill went across his desk as chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee and that he took up the bill and moved it forward.

Although that measure ultimately failed to pass, Petrowski said, "I listen to the other side; if they have good ideas, I incorporate them into the bill."

Petrowski also charged back that "Donna's idea of working together is slam someone on TV to the tune of $100,000."

Petrowski said the Seidel campaign's ads "trying to tear me apart" on women's health issues were inaccurate. He said Seidel, in fact, voted to cut funding for well woman screenings in the 2009 state budget.

"That's what's wrong with politics today," Petrowski said.

Seidel declared that she had long championed the program, and that the 2009 vote was part of an across-the-board cut in light of a budget shortfall.

She blasted Petrowski over a provision cutting state funding for Planned Parenthood, including for the group's cancer screening services, arguing it showed "a lack of interest or concern for the health care of so many women in this state."

Seidel also called the fiscal policies enacted by Republicans last year "really misguided decisions, and we have see the result of those decisions,” referring to statistics showing the state ranking No. 50 nationally in job creation.

She said public employees should have their collective bargaining rights restored -- with the concessions she said were agreed to during last winter's protests over the budget repair bill -- and education should not have been "first place to cut."

Petrowski said those decisions enabled the state to get on an "even keel" financially, and said a number of economic factors, from unemployment to revenue projections, "shows you that we are going in the right direction."

He did say, however, that he would vote against so-called "right to work" legislation after video surfaced of Walker discussing that issue with a donor last year.

"I don't believe there is a plan to do that," Petrowski said. "I would vote no, and I don't believe there is support to do it."

Seidel responded that, in light of Petrowski's vote for public sector collective bargaining restrictions, "I find it pretty hard to imagine that that is honest."

She reiterated that public employee unions had indicated they would accept higher pension and health care contributions as debate on the repair bill raged, telling Petrowski, "You could not accept 'yes' for an answer."

The candidates also went at it over mining legislation

Seidel defended her opposition to "the most extreme mining bill," saying she wanted to be sure that air and water quality in the state's northern frontier would be protected.

"When I can get those assurances, then absolutely I will be committed 100 percent to creating those good paying jobs," Seidel said.

Petrowski said the proposed iron mine amounted to "running a big shovel" through the mining site, and that it would not be an air quality issue.

Instead, Petrowski said that the only reason the bill failed was Dems "did not want to see Scott Walker have a win on the mining issue."


-- By Andy Szal

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