Tom is itching for a fight

Barrett and challenger Scott Walker met for their final Milwaukee-area debate last Friday and is the nature of debates, some questions were left unanswered. So Barrett took a few minutes to answer and clarify some of his responses from the debate.

Walker and the Republicans have defined your candidacy as “Jim Doyle’s 3rd term.” You disagree. How do you differ from Jim Doyle?

“I differ with the governor on the appointment of the DNR Secretary,” Barrett said.  He would allow the DNR Secretary to be chosen by the appointed DNR Board, while Doyle currently appoints the DNR Secretary himself. Walker would follow Doyle’s lead on this.

“I have serious reservations with the early release of violent criminals back into our neighborhoods,” he added. “I would also overhaul the Department of Commerce. Only ten percent of that department is working on economic development. That needs to change and that is why I will move that department under the Governor’s office and emphasize business development.

He added while he is supportive of the ultimate goal of Doyle’s Clean Energy Jobs Act, he would remove the limits and controls that are tied to California sulfur and fuel efficiency standards. “Wisconsin is not California and we shouldn’t be subject to their legislation.”

“Scott needs to remember, I ran against Jim Doyle in 2002 because I thought I could do a better job,” Barrett said. “Walker tried to run against him and dropped out. I had the courage to face Doyle and challenge him with my ideas.”

At the Oct. 15 debate, you said “I won’t raise taxes in my first budget.” But you will have a very real $2.7 billion budget hole. What exactly will you cut to make up that hole if tax increases  are off the table?

One of Barrett’s key campaign points has been “putting Madison on a diet.” He said there is at least a billion dollars in the budget that can be trimmed with his plan.

“I want to consolidate state and local employees into the same health insurance pool,” he said. “That will save at least $300 million.”

“Unlike Scott who wants to eliminate access to BadgerCare Plus, I would like to explore moving people to less expensive versions of BadgerCare. I want the woman working at Wal-Mart to keep her job and have access to health care.” Barrett said this move could save up to $200 million.

Barrett would like to spend some money to save it, by increasing the ranks of Medicaid fraud investigators. He said by ferreting out Medicaid fraud in the state, he can save $35 million in the budget.

Finally, he would implement a sunset review commission to look at regulations and legislation to find waste and fraud. He said a similar program has been used in Texas, but he did not have a dollar figure on the savings this type of commission would find.

You were supportive of a mayoral takeover of MPS, but seemed to disappear when the state was not awarded Race to the Top funds. What is your position on the oversight of MPS now and what needs to be done to reform education in the state?

“I will not walk away from the schools in the state or Milwaukee,” Barrett said. “But in the last month we have seen some changes in MPS between the union and the administration on health insurance that will help the district. I’m supportive of the new superintendent and I don’t want to pull the rug out from under Dr. Thornton.”

As for the state, Barrett said he would work to improve educational attainment and fiscal support for all districts.

What will you focus on regarding transportation for the state as a whole?

Barrett said he wants to find a balance between highway and transit funding. He said a regional transit authority is a challenge, considering there is no dedicated funding for it.

“We need to deal with the bus issues for regional transit,” Barrett said. “Until we do that, the legislature won’t deal on the KRM or anything else.”

You’ve pointed out Walker’s challenges and alleged failures throughout the campaign, but the city is facing its own fiscal challenges and you have some unfulfilled promises, such as MMSD dumping. What makes you different and better qualified for the job as governor?

Barrett says he is best equipped to deal with the fiscal issues facing the state because he has faced them in the city and had the “gut check” moment.

“In 2009 we had to make an employer payment to the city’s pension system. I made the decision to not borrow the money. We made changes to the budget and yes, we had to raise taxes, but our pension is fully funded.”

He added that even though the city won’t be required to make another employer payment to the pension until 2012, he has included money in the 2010 budget to fund a “lock box” to prepare for that payment.

“From 2005-2008, Walker had low-balled the contributions to the county pension system and then had to borrow $400 million last year to make the payment. That is the stark difference between us.”

In these last two weeks, Barrett is finally showing the fighting spirit that has been lacking throughout his campaign. “I am ready and willing to face things head on,” he said. “I will make my decisions for this state based on what’s best for the next generation of Wisconsinites, not on what’s best for my next election.”

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