Going into the recall election, Simac maintains job growth is key
8/13/2011 7:30:00 AM
Now just days away from the recall election, Republican candidate Kim Simac maintains that revitalizing the 12th Senate District and creating jobs are her top priorities. In fact, Simac said promoting vitality and prosperity is what ultimately got her into the race in the first place.
"We must turn this district around and our state and be a place where all of us here and our families can stay and live the great life that we've been blessed to have up here. I've raised my family up here, I want them to stay here. And I want to make sure that my friends can stay up here too," Simac told The Lakeland Times earlier this week.
A resident of Eagle River, Simac is the vice-chairwoman of the Vilas County Republican Party and founder of the Northwoods Patriots.
She defeated Lincoln County board chairman Robert Lussow in a special Senate primary July 19 and will challenge incumbent Sen. Jim Holperin (D-Conover) on Tuesday, Aug. 16.
Simac launched and organized the recall effort against Holperin when he left the state during this year's contentious collective bargaining debate, she says on her campaign website.
She said, if elected, her first priority is clear: Jobs.
"Jobs are the key to the whole solution. So what we would need to do is to work to ensure that legislation is being passed down there or easing of some of the rules that we have in place right now ... so that the general atmosphere for business in the district can mend and become better. That would be the key to moving forward here."
Citing road contractors and potato farmers as specific examples, Simac thinks less paperwork for smaller businesses that "just simply want to work" would be a good place to start.
"Take the road construction worker who has a very difficult time with the compliance paperwork. There's many people employed by some businesses now just strictly doing paperwork just to be able to do a job. Where does that run in our profit margin," she said.
"Take the potato farmer who is having a hard time just staying afloat with the high cost of everything these days, fuel costs and such. Why is it that he is forced to have such stringent regulations on how it is he gets his potatoes to market? ... I've talked to quite a few potato farmers and they're just shaking their head. It's very burdensome."
"If we could just kick back at some of that and make it easier for people just to simply exist here and do business, I think that would help. That would be a start."
The candidate thinks another step toward job creation is lowering corporate tax obligations.
"I think that the incentives to bring business here by dropping the tax obligation down for them is probably going to be a must so that we can get them to come here. Don't forget we're in competition with the other states in this country. Don't forget we're in competition with the world out there. We have a lot of things to offer but we also have to make it feasible for companies to come and settle here," Simac said.
"We kind of swung way too far to the side of too much taxes and fees and regulations and that's why we lost over 150,000 some odd jobs that fled the state. Now we want them back."
While she says tax breaks granted to state manufacturers in the biennial budget will prove to be advantageous, she is hesitant to tie further tax breaks directly to job creation, citing that it could disadvantage smaller businesses.
"I think that what we need to do is, it's got to be fair that, you know, we simply don't have some bigger entity that comes in and creates a higher number of jobs so that they seem to be having a better playing ground than someone perhaps like me or somebody like you that employs some."
However, when asked if she would support rural enterprise zones that exempt businesses in a specific geographic area from some regulatory obstacles, Simac said she wasn't necessarily in favor of giving rural areas special treatment.
"I think it's something that I would definitely like to look into further before I would totally commit myself because I know that there's other places in the state that are going to be working just as hard to create jobs," she said.
"I can't say that just because we're totally rural that we should have anything extra."
Simac thinks stimulating job growth would have a trickle down effect, saying that the best way to cure financial issues with the Medicaid program is to foster a healthy economy so individuals come off the program.
"I think that if we can revitalize the economy in this state, you're going to see it maybe kick back and some people come off of it as they can afford to get their own health care, as their employers can provide it for them, so I think that that will be part of the solution."
Simac said she would also be in favor of an exploratory committee to identify waste in the Medicaid program.
"I'm the power of attorney for my brother, he's living in an assisted living facility and I'm very thankful for the care he gets; he's on Medicaid. I see a lot of waste. I've calculated some of the waste. And I think that we really need to find ways that we can ... offer those services more frugally," Simac said.
"I think that if we take a look at what we are offering to the people who need it the most and make sure we are there for the people that need it the most, and if we really try to put together a waste task force let's say to work on it, I think you'll see that we can run it more efficiently and meet the demands."
As for business development in District 12, Simac said the possibilities are nearly endless.
"I don't think you're going to see great big corporations move in with big huge plants. We're going to have smaller incubator type businesses move in here, I believe. I think it would be nice to be able to let the woods operate again feasibly so that we could have a little more thriving logging industry for the individual loggers that want to work," she said.
"I think we can, with the fact that we have such wonderful schools and we do have such a beautiful lifestyle and we do have industrial parks set up, we have economic development teams in place, I mean I think it's almost endless what could come here."
And while there may be roadblocks yet for business looking to relocate to Wisconsin, Simac thinks continuing to invest in tourism is a good move.
"I know that there's a lot of problems to jump start a bunch of businesses still coming to Wisconsin; we're not quite there yet. But one thing that's not, there's not roadblocks up at all is working on our tourist business, our tourism industry up here ... I would really like to try to see how we could market this district and bring more people up here," she said.
"I know that Sen. Holperin says a lot of those jobs aren't that good because they don't pay that high, that's all right. We're used to that up here. We've lived up here with a tourism history for a long time and let's just make sure we keep that in place."
The candidate said of possible new mining operations in the state, like sulfide mining in Oneida County and iron ore mining in Ashland, Bayfield and Iron counties, they shouldn't be ruled out.
"It's just one step at a time, let's just look at it."
While these mines have the potential to create a number of jobs, Simac also said she doesn't think it is something that should be rushed into.
"I think we can be assured that we have a track record of making sure before we allow anything to happen up here, it's going to be well thought out and it's going to be very environmentally sound," she said.
"I don't think it's something where we should just jump right in because all of a sudden we've got the potential for great jobs."
Like her opponent, Simac also believes making high-speed Internet more available in the Northwoods is a must for attracting and growing businesses.
"We're going to have to keep up with the changing times. I know that living up here for about 30 years now, we've kind of lagged behind a little bit sometimes. But the time has come now for us to have it up here ... That would be another great asset to have when you're trying to sell yourself for businesses. Some businesses simply can not do business without it," she said,
"My only concern is that I don't want to look for the free way to get it done ... we have to figure out how to get the footing going and make sure that it's advantageous for business to invest in that up here."
Simac said while she is pleased with the savings some schools and municipalities are seeing under Gov. Scott Walker's biennial budget, she wants to ensure fiscal responsibility continues.
"I think that any savings at this point is good news compared to where we were just a couple years ago when we were talking about billions of dollars of debt that we're still feeling now."
Simac said while it wasn't an easy road to get to a balanced state budget, she is seeing some of the payoff.
"I think what it did though is it allowed us now to be able to put some beginning to a successful fiscal end to the dilemma that we found ourselves in. To see the fact that the town of Three Lakes has a balanced school budget this year to see that ... the Merrill schools are staying open, to see that there aren't the firings and that, affordable health care is being able to save the taxpayer money. As a taxpayer, I think it's good," she said.
"We seriously needed to take a look at the direction we were headed and we still have along way to go."
As for her stance on collective bargaining, Simac was non-committal, though she said she could relate to the sacrifices made by public employees.
"I'm a small business owner who is responsible for 100 percent of all of my own life. Having a son though that is a union policeman and understanding how he had to deal with it, understanding that it was difficult at this time to ask this segment of our neighbors to help," she said.
"It's done, we're moving forward. I hope that we can mend the bridges and work together. Small business has been suffering for quite a while, and it's almost like the playing field had to be just leveled out."
While some argue that costs savings were realized by higher pension and healthcare contributions and not by the diminishment of collective bargaining, Simac said she believes public employees still have some protections.
"I guess what I would say is that we did come through, written in there is guarantees with the civil service protections that allows them to be able to still have protection for their job, for their working conditions," she said.
"We have one of the strongest written civil protection wording that is in the nation so I mean don't think that we've let them down. And I think that certainly their valuable job that they do for us is going to be taken care of."
As to whether she thinks collective bargaining is good for education, Simac was non-committal, though she hinted perhaps it is not.
"I would think education is a separate issue. I mean our education of our children, the money that we spend on that should be going for a superior education and getting as much as we can to the classroom. I think that the contracts that we have with the teachers and the other public employees ... should be separate when it comes to, I guess the end result," she said.
"I think what we were faced with was the fact that many unreasonable negotiations had been going on for many years, so it was a very difficult thing ... The cost of our education kept going up and up and perhaps there's evidence that less and less money was going to the classrooms. In the end, the best thing that we can do is let ... the schools, the school boards and the local entities take care of their own business."
Also regarding Gov. Walker's budget, Simac said she does support the measure that takes away $1 million from Planned Parenthood.
"I'm endorsed by all three pro-life groups in the state of Wisconsin. I'm 100 percent pro-life. My next title coming out next year is actually 'In Defense of Life,' I'm proud of that. I don't think the taxpayer wants their tax dollars going to that," she said.
"I'm not for state funding, I am not at all for abortion and I think that Roe v. Wade was a crucial mistake in our history."
Simac instead suggests that local churches and communities could provide some of the outreach currently offered by Planned Parenthood.
"I think that the problems that we have out there; I think that there are so many great churches and great people and communities that I think that the help and assistance that is needed for a lot of our people can come from us."
As for the newest revision of NR115, Simac thinks the shoreland zoning rule is overreaching and inequitable, because villages and cities are exempted but unincorporated towns are not.
"Something as burdensome and restricting as NR115, in my opinion, is going to have to be played even across the state. It's certainly not fair for us up here to have to be carrying that ... if it's not be applied elsewhere," she said.
"I think it is again one of those instances where we have found ourselves trying to do good and we've overreached so far, that most people I talk to and myself, I can't find the common sense in much of it."
She said if implemented in its current form, NR115 could hurt real estate sales by limiting uses and improvement of properties and that it is confusing for homeowners who want to improve their property.
"I don't really have a lot of faith in the way that its written right now."
Simac said the requirements that limit impervious surfaces to 15 percent of a given lot, or 30 percent with mitigation, come too close to infringing on landowners' rights.
"What is the point of this in the end. Is it really going to assure that we're going to keep our waters clean ... because it's a big burden on the people up here," she said.
"I think we have to push back at it. I just think that it's too over to the side of infringing on the landowner's right to own a piece of property and develop it the way that they would like to."
She also said language dealing with non-conforming structures must be dealt with before the rule is implemented.
"I have a lot to learn about this, but I'll tell you right now my guard is up when it come to this."
Simac said she is concerned about aquatic invasive species (AIS) in the area, though she is cautious about the methods used to eradicate them and emphasized the fight against AIS must be a state and local effort.
"I think this is something that we have to work on together. It's our problem up here," she said.
"My guard goes up when I start thinking about can we [have] the state to fix our problems. I think that they need to help us with it. Let's see what we have available or already coming in but ... I think up here we can also work hard to solve the solution on a local level."
Simac's platform of frugality extends to state land purchases.
"We have a lot of land. I think that we could turn it into, if we utilized what we have and take some of these tracts and go ahead and let them be purchased out that could be good for our bottom line."
She said she would like to see existing resources utilized better and see all state trails open.
"I support all sorts of development that would help people enjoy it but I don't support it if its' going to be costing us more money all the time and it's going to be taking from other places where ewe need it," she said of ATV, bicycle and snowmobile trail expansion.
"Let's only do what we can afford to do, and other than that, let's utilize what we have."
When asked about a loophole in the state's retention law for public records that exempts legislature from maintaining pubic records for any length of time, Simac said she believe transparency is "of the utmost importance in our elected officials."
She did not, however, commit to introducing a bill that would make the open records law as transparent as possible and more friendly to the public.
"I do believe that we do need to have as much information out there that is reliable, truthful for the taxpayer and concerned citizens to have in their hands when they want it," she said.
"What I would also like to do is have the opportunity to look into it further to make sure that I'm not saying things before; as a new candidate, I don't want to be the type of politician that goes out there and promises things when I really don't know, you know, I don't have both feet firmly on the ground on that."
While some have speculated as to the value of recall elections, Simac thinks they should remain as the constituent's check on government, though she feels the rules could stand some alteration.
"In my opinion, with my experience now as a recall leader, it definitely needs to be restructured. And I know that's going to be quite the task because it's going to be something that is going to have to be worked through the constitution. It's going to take some hard work. But when I'm a senator, I'm going to go and start working on that."
Specifically, Simac thinks there should be reasons stipulated in the constitution as to as to why a state government official can be recalled.
"There needs to be reasons for a recall. We had a reason for a recall up here. In my opinion, it was a gross misconduct of duty."
Simac also spoke out about third party ads and the attack ads targeting her.
"I believe we need to have reasons why you can recall somebody and then some integrity to it, too. I don't think there should be any outside entities at all. This recall was our business," she said.
"I think we should just be sticking to the facts and move on."
Simac also said while her campaign has "stuck to the facts and stuck to the issues," she has been viscously attacked.
"I have been attacked viscously, and by his own campaign too, because his name is on there," she said of third party ads and Sen. Holperin's campaign.
"It's tough to take, but what's even worse is that his attack on me as a small business owner is an attack on over 50 percent of people that live up here in this district who struggle, who work hard, and at the end of the year, they feel proud of what they do when they file their taxes. And what's happened across the airwaves, the distortions, the lies, the words out of context, they don't define me and they don't define the working-class people up here. So when Jim Holperin says that he is for the working families, I am the working families, and those attacks are really out of step. It shows how out of step, I believe, he is with his constituents."
Simac said ultimately, money used on attack ads could be put to a better use.
"I'm a hardworking person. I don't have any real frills. I don't have any agendas or people I'm obliged to. If I become a senator here I will be answering to the people of this district and this district only. And I think that's what the people want right now."