Jess Ripp is a young, energetic attorney and has prepared for the election much in the same way he prepares for a case — by doing his homework. He knows the issues facing the 7th district and he is confident he can bridge the wide political range that makes up this eclectic district.
Over a fruit smoothie, Ripp shared his ideas and vision for the district if elected as the Republican senator from Milwaukee.
What is your position on transportation issues such as freeways, bus transit, high-speed rail and the segregated transportation fund?
“We have a dire situation with respect to transportation in Milwaukee County with the Hoan Bridge and the Zoo Interchange and the major reason is the current administration’s raiding of the segregated transportation fund to balance the budget,” Ripp said. “We need an amendment to limit the ability to raid that fund and others, like the malpractice and tobacco money.
Ripp is a proponent of public transit buses because of the ease of changing routes and schedules to acommodate the needs of businesses and riders.
“We need a binding referendum of funding for buses that would remove it from the property tax rolls. Funds for buses could be obtained by having state employees contribute to their pensions and implement Scott Walker’s health insurance plan for school districts and teachers.”
While he is for buses, Ripp is opposed to the $810 million high-speed train between Madison and Milwaukee and the proposed trolly loop in the downtown. He said he doesn’t believe the ridership projections for the train and fears the permanency of rail.
“I don’t see any headway with the communities along the proposed route and the cost burden to those communities hasn’t been settled,” he said. “It has been sold as a free train from the federal government, but we in Wisconsin will have to heavily subsidize this and I’m not on board.”
What are your plans and ideas for solving the education crisis in Wisconsin and within MPS?
Ripp, a graduate of Marquette High School and University, is in favor of school vouchers, charter schools and choice. “I believe the state should lift the caps on voucher use and let parents have a choice.” He also wants to see the return of the Qualified Economic Offer (QEO), which holds teacher’s salary and benefit packages to a set percentage increase each year. “I like the stability that gives school boards for budgeting.”
While MPS is the largest district within the 5th, there are other schools within the senate seat’s boundaries and Ripp wants to look at education funding solutions that will benefit all the districts in the state. “We need to stop the delay in changing funding now, but we have to be honest with the dollar amounts,” he said. “Program like ‘Pennies for Kids’ isn’t realistic. It is a regressive tax that doesn’t even cover the problem.”
He agrees with Walker’s suggestion to break MPS into smaller districts. Ripp believes this would bring more stakeholders in education to the table — parents, teachers, students and the public — and spread the responsibility for education to more people.
What will you do to encourage job creation in the district and state?
Unlike his opponent Chris Larson, Ripp is opposed to the Clean Energy Act as a job creator. He believes it will place unneccessary regulations and costs on major employers in the district, which will lead to the loss of jobs. Like his opponent, Ripp favors the Areotropolis program to bring businesses and industry to the area surrounding Mitchell International Airport.
In two words, Ripp’s plan to create jobs is “cut taxes.”
“We need to cut taxes across the board and encourage small business growth, which creates 87 percent of the growth in the nation,” Ripp said. “I think we need something like Milwaukee 7 on a state level, maybe in the Department of Commerce, which needs to be streamlined and more user-friendly. I would also encourage more angel tax credits and micro-lending.”
The 7th Senate district is very diverse politically, economically and socially. How do you plan to appeal to all potential voters?
Ripp is depending on moderate Democrats and disenfranchised GOP voters in the suburban portion to take him to Madison. He has spent the last month working with Plale supporters who have offered to help in his fight.
“The dynamics of my campaign changed after Plale lost,” Ripp said. “I think Larson is a stark contrast to me and I don’t see Reagan Democrats voting for his platform. There is a strong Catholic, pro-life base in the (southern portion of the 5th) and Larson is all about global warming and abortion. The relevant issues in this race are job creation and the economy. That is what I am focusing on.”
Wisconsin will face a $2.5 billion budget hole when you take office. What items are off-limits for cuts and what items would you like to see reduced or removed from the budget?
Ripp said there are no completely untouchable programs in the budget but duties that are reserved for the state, such as corrections,would have a better chance of maintaining funds. But when it comes to the state’s finances, he remains true to his fiscal conservative cred.
“We need to cut taxes and let businesses grow which will beget more tax revenue.”