Knilans, Kolste clash for 44th Assembly
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JANESVILLE Joe Knilans knows exactly what Deb Kolste is facing in her bid to represent the 44th Assembly District.
Two years ago, the relatively unknown Knilans emerged from a Republican primary and went on to shock Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan.
Kolste won a four-way Democratic primary in August to earn a shot at Knilans.
While a Kolste defeat of Knilans wouldn't be an upset of Knilans-Sheridan magnitude, both candidates are burning shoe leather in their quest to represent the district that includes most of Janesville.
In advance of the Nov. 6 election, both candidates responded to these questions:
Q: With the state budget, job creation, education and health care issues expected to be at the forefront of the Legislature's agenda, what specifically will you do in each of those areas that will have a direct impact on the 44th Assembly District?
Knilans: He said the state needs to build on the successes of the last two years, noting that more than 1,600 jobs were created and more than $600 million in capital investment was made in Rock County since he took office.
He said he wants to strengthen ties between high school, technical college and manufacturing sectors to ensure graduates are prepared for today's manufacturing environment. He also plans to reintroduce legislation that makes tax credits portable, which would boost job creation.
Other initiatives, he said, include a statewide venture capital fund and reforms of mining laws and the state's education system.
"When I took over, Wisconsin was facing a $3.6 billion deficit," he said. "Through tough decisions and hard work, Wisconsin is currently projected to have over a $200 million surplus at the end of the fiscal year.
"The Department of Administration is making the largest transfer to the state's rainy day fund in our history."
Knilans said the state invested more than $1.2 billion in medical assistance for the needy, and more work needs to be done to eliminate fraud and fund medical assistance programs at appropriate levels.
"Wisconsin is on the right path, and we now have the flexibility to fund our priorities," he said. "In education, I believe we need to get serious about a new school funding formula. The current formula is broken and pits students versus seniors.
"We also need to hold parents accountable for their child's education. Teachers can't do it alone."
Kolste: She said the most recent budget was more than $1 billion higher than the previous budget and included billions of dollars in corporate giveaways at the expense of the middle class, the needy and elderly, the education system and shared revenue to cities and counties.
Improving the business climate in the entire state will help the district, she said, noting that she only will support economic development legislation for individual communities or districts in specific cases. Examples are the engineering program at UW-Rock County and cost-efficient infrastructure improvements that benefit local businesses.
She said she would support a tax code that puts money in the hands of the working class, which spends the money that drives a local economy.
"We should provide tax breaks that create jobs, not giveaways that don't," she said.
Education and health care also are major areas of concern, she said.
"Education was not a priority of my opponent or Gov. Walker," she said, noting that Gov. Scott Walker's budget cut public education by $1.6 billion, the university system by $315 million and the technical college system by $71 million.
"Classrooms are crowded, tuition is rising, roads are crumbling, families are struggling, but the giveaways to the corporations still get delivered," she said.
Kolste said her background in health care has given her an understanding of programs such as FamilyCare.
"I will work to preserve them, not just to improve health care but to save us all money."
Q: If elected in November, what specifically will you do to patch the political divide in this state and restore some sense of civility to the Legislature?
Knilans: "We all want the same thing, a strong Wisconsin; we just disagree on how best to get there," he said.
Patching the divide, he said, requires lawmakers committed to respect.
"I have a proven record of introducing bipartisan legislation and working with both sides when we disagree," he said. "I look forward to building upon that record in January and continuing to forge new relationships with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle."
Kolste: "I've never had a problem working with people who have different views and ideologies from mine," she said.
She said she served on the school board with commissioners who had different visions. The board, she said, conducted itself with remarkable civility.
Kolste said the last legislative session was one of the most divisive and bitterly partisan in history.
The Republican majority in the Assembly, she said, took up 25 bills authored by Democrats out of 318, and only a handful saw action.
"My opponent voted with his leadership on 764 out of 768 chances, 99.4 percent," she said.
"The atmosphere in Madison will be improved by electing representatives who do not always vote as they are told by leadership."
Q: Why should people vote for you and not your opponent?
Knilans: "I am the only candidate with a proven record of job creation coupled with taking on the special interests and fraud in government," he said, noting unemployment in Janesville has decreased nearly five points, the state's deficit is gone and a significant transfer went into the surplus fund.
"Going forward, Wisconsin is in a better position because of the choices we've made," he said. "My opponent would take us down the path of Illinois where they've raised taxes over $5 billion and are still facing a budget deficit with an unfunded pension system.
"Wisconsin is moving in the right direction, the facts show it."
Kolste: "I should be elected rather than my opponent based on a comparison of our qualifications," she said. "I am more experienced in more areas and better prepared to work with people of differing viewpoints to get things done."
She said she is the only candidate connected to the community through volunteer service. She said she is the only candidate with leadership and business experience, as well as practical experience with educational and health care policy.
"My opponent's priorities are profoundly wrong for Janesville and haven't worked in our state," she said.
"Spending is actually higher than before, but it doesn't benefit workers, create jobs, help education or protect the ill and aged."
Address: 316 Knollview Drive, Janesville.
Education: Associates degree in science, UW-Rock County; bachelor's degree in political science with a minor in biology, UW-Whitewater.
Elected posts: State representative, 44th Assembly District.
Community service: Member of the Knights of Columbus and a volunteer for GIFTS men's homeless shelter
Address: 4105 Park View Drive, Janesville.
Education: Bachelor of Science degree in medical technology, University of Nebraska; post graduate hours, MBA, Wichita State University.
Elected posts: Janesville School Board, three terms, elected president
Community service: School PTO and PTA boards, director of the mock drunk driving program at Janesville Craig High School for two years, board member of Rock Futbol soccer league, chairperson of children's hospital tours, president of Mercy Volunteers, working with Janesville Literacy Connection fundraisers, board member of the YMCA of Northern Rock County and a volunteer at HealthNet of Rock County.