One year from election day, Mary Burke lays out views, if not specifics, on several issues

2013-11-06T07:30:00Z One year from election day, Mary Burke lays out views, if not specifics, on several issuesJACK CRAVER | The Capital Times |

Mary Burke, the only declared Democratic candidate for governor, is holding back from prescribing specific policy solutions to the state's problems at this point in her campaign. Instead, a year away from the 2014 election, the Madison School Board member and former Trek executive is emphasizing her leadership in the business and nonprofit worlds as well as her ability to broach compromise across ideological lines.

During an interview with the Cap Times last week, she highlighted these qualities in describing why she believed others had urged her to run.

“I think people felt I was the type of candidate who (could attract voters) from the middle, has a strong emphasis on private sector job creation,” she said. “And (they) know what my leadership is in the city in regards to education. They thought that I would be a great governor.”

In response to specific questions on policy, Burke above all stressed her commitment to developing solutions based on empirical analysis. She nevertheless avoided proposing specific alternatives to many of Gov. Scott Walker's policies.

For example, did she support the $650 million tax cut signed into law by Walker earlier this year?

“I'd have to see whether it put the state in a strong financial position going forward,” she responded. “You've seen where we're now going from a $700 million surplus to getting into the next biennium with almost a $750 million deficit. I'd love to be able to do tax cuts, but they have to be done in a way that is benefiting the state and is setting us up for fiscal responsibility in the long term.”

Notably, in the first weeks of her campaign, Burke, unlike many candidates challenging incumbents, has generally avoided attacks against Walker. Although there is little question to whom she attributes the state’s political division and economic anxiety that she decries, she has largely eschewed the incendiary jabs that have become common among Democratic legislators and party leaders.

As she has on other occasions, Burke, a longtime education advocate, noted the historic nature of Walker's deep cuts to school funding and expressed concern that the state was making an economic blunder by failing to invest enough in public education.

“I think we have to make sure that we're adequately funding our public schools and that overall is something that I believe is important because our schools are the foundation of the our economy,” she said.

However, when pressed on what she would have preferred the state do to avoid cuts to education, she avoided specific proposals and did not say whether she would support raising taxes instead.

“I would look at everything in terms of, first of all, our spending,” she said. “There's a lot of other things with a budget that's $65 billion. There's a lot to look at there.”

When asked what she thought about the $1 billion the state spends on prisons — due to an incarceration rate that far exceeds that of some states with similar crime rates, such as Minnesota, Rhode Island and Maine — Burke also expressed an interest in investigating more effective alternatives to prisons.

“I just think we have to look at all the options. I think it's a really good comparison to make and to say, are there other ways to make sure our communities are safe but also that we're being effective in terms of the money we're spending?” she said, noting Wisconsin's high rate of recidivism. “I think there are states that are looking at things differently, understanding that if you want to be able to fund the priorities that are driving economies, you have to look at the things that aren't funding job creation and see if there's better ways to be doing it.”

Asked what she thought about voters legalizing marijuana in Washington State and Colorado, she responded, “I don't think that's where the people of Wisconsin are at.”

In response to concerns voiced by some progressives about a statement she made suggesting she was open to the controversial iron mine in northern Wisconsin, Burke said she’s opposed to the environmental deregulation bill supported by the mining company, Gogebic Taconite, and that she would only support iron mining under the framework established by an alternative bill proposed by Democrats and moderate Republican Sen. Dale Schultz.

“The only way I would support the mine in northern Wisconsin is if it is protecting our natural resources, and I think the bill that Sens. Cullen, Jauch and Schultz had put forth had the processes that would be able to safeguard our natural resources while still being able to create jobs,” she said.

In response to a question about the proposed casino that the Menominee Indian Tribe seeks to build in Kenosha, which has been fiercely opposed by the Potawatomi tribe, which runs a nearby casino in Milwaukee, Burke again stressed the importance of assessing the market for gaming in the area to determine whether the project would result in a net addition of jobs.

“It's not just something that we talk about and look at in isolation,” she said. “Neighboring states also have gambling operations. Is this an opportunity to increase jobs overall in the state?”

She did not reject out-of-hand the possibility of raising taxes on the wealthy in future budgets. Unlike Republicans, who have repeatedly bemoaned tax rates which they say put Wisconsin at a competitive disadvantage, Burke said that Wisconsin's progressive tax structure is not abnormal.

“I think if you look at Wisconsin ... that our highest tax rates are certainly in line with other states, certainly higher than some and lower than others,” she said. “I think it's not only the tax rate but other types of deductions and things. But I believe in people paying their fair share.”

Finally, when she was pressed on the fact that she has largely held back from proposing specific policies and so far does not describe any issue positions on her website, Burke said the campaign is still in its development stages and that she plans be more specific in the coming months.

“Three-and-a-half weeks into the election, it's a lot to build up an organization from scratch,” she said. “There's no doubt that during the course of this campaign, over the next year, I want to make sure people understand where I stand on issues, what values I hold and the type of governor I will be.”


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(17) Comments

  1. northern_lights
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    northern_lights - November 12, 2013 11:03 am
    Earth to Mary Burke... Earth to Mary Burke... anyone home? Wisconsin supports legalizing at the minimum marijuana for medical purposes (some 70% favor it and it is climbing)... while the rest of the country's politicians are listening to their constituents, Wisconsin politicos keep the dollars flowing into their pockets from special interests. Get a backbone Burke and stand up for the people's will. America is finally getting smart about wasting tax dollars on fighting a plant that is much less harmful than alcohol. 2 states have legalized it fully and this legalizing will be snowballing AND two of our neighbors (with a 3rd Minnesota on its way) have safe and legal access to marijuana for medical purposes!

  2. TheRestOfTheStory
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    TheRestOfTheStory - November 07, 2013 9:09 am
    This is like the pot calling the kettle black. You support the GOPs 1%'ers who outsource yet you try to claim that if it's a Dem then there outrage to be had? While I don't support ANY 1%'er I support your nonsense argument even less. In fact, it's a definition of hypocrisy.
  3. TheRestOfTheStory
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    TheRestOfTheStory - November 07, 2013 9:07 am
    And how many of Walker's 'advisors' or appointees or co-workers have been hauled up on criminal charges? Just since you brought the subject up ?
  4. AllAmerican11B
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    AllAmerican11B - November 07, 2013 8:39 am
    "Actually, AA11B, Burke's answer was extremely reasonable."


    You have a genuine lack of understanding of the differences between what is past tense, present tense, and something that has not happened yet; I do not. The reporter should have confronted her, she did not answer the question that was asked, the reporter chose to let it go; that is not how a real journalist should react to a question that has not been answered. Would the same reporter react differently if it had been a politician from the opposite side of the political aisle, with the Cap Times, I think that is entirely possible. You and I are just going to have to disagree on this one.

    Burke is waffling, it needs to change very soon or she will start to loose what could be a growing base of voters listening to her words, it's just that simple.
  5. Jim L
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    Jim L - November 07, 2013 8:25 am
    There is a class war raging. How can a 1%er fight or even know what to fight? We need a raging progressive to run against the ALEC puppet/tool.
  6. witness2012
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    witness2012 - November 06, 2013 10:46 pm
    Actually, AA11B, Burke's answer was extremely reasonable. I've heard other legislators on Joint Finance complain that it is almost impossible to find out what the actually raw numbers are for different expenditures- everything is rolled into broad categories with little specifics available. And, the agency heads are evasive when asked directly.

    Given the lack of transparency in the budget and the conflicting projections about future revenue from different sources, it makes perfect sense to say that she'd have to be able to actually look at the data before drawing a conclusion about whether it was good policy or not. At least, she's beginning to explain the criteria she would use to make policy decisions.
  7. bunny53925
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    bunny53925 - November 06, 2013 4:07 pm
    I would like to know how to contact her. Also, how in the world can she say that the voters of Wisconsin aren't at the point of voting on cannabis???? 80% of Wisconsinites agree it should be legal. Where is she getting her information or isn't she informed at all? Besides this issue, it seems her idea of jobs will be over seas as that is where most of the parts are China. Seems to be more Republican than Democrat. Sorry, doesn't get my support as of yet.
    Bunny Balk Chairwoman
    Wisconsin Chapter of Americans for Safe Access
  8. Tpartywarrior
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    Tpartywarrior - November 06, 2013 1:47 pm
    Burke is after all a 1% er who outsourced jobs out of the country.
  9. Tpartywarrior
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    Tpartywarrior - November 06, 2013 1:46 pm

    Burke just hired some campaign strategists from Obama. Did Burke throw Tanya under the bus?

    Mary Burke’s senior political adviser is Tanya Bjork, whom Doyle hired as national liaison. The appointment was controversial partly because Bjork was convicted of two misdemeanors related to the caucus scandal for campaigning on state time and trying to cover it up.

    Read more:
  10. lute
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    lute - November 06, 2013 1:01 pm
    “There's no doubt that during the course of this campaign, over the next year, I want to make sure people understand where I stand on issues, what values I hold and the type of governor I will be.”

    Why not now? Why the kid gloves? Burke is in over her head. Not ready for prime time. Amateur hour.

    This is an important election and she is not up to it as a politician, not to mention that the little that can be read into her history and vague talking points seems more aligned with the Walker gang than anything resembling a progressive Democratic orientation. I do not understand where the support comes from- has the establishment Democratic party in Wisconsin moved this far to the right?
  11. Reader And Listener
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    Reader And Listener - November 06, 2013 12:59 pm
    Mary Burke seems no more literate than our current Guv . . . there must be someone who has a command of language AND is able and willing to regard the state as comprised of players needing to make the best of the cards they have been dealt.
  12. truthzeeker
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    truthzeeker - November 06, 2013 10:57 am
    It is always interesting to read the anti-intelligent bloggers. Seldom do they use facts or sound statistics. Almost always they slander, attack, demonize or simply distort the truth.

    They pretty much follow the routine livertising ads spawned by Americans for Prosperty, and all the other right 501c's. Simply put they bring little to the table which will enhance our lives.
  13. Gretna Green
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    Gretna Green - November 06, 2013 10:15 am
    Praise be to Mary Burke for being focused on solutions and data to the point she won't give pat and easy answers. There are no easy answers to these issues, many of which are interrelated. You have to understand the complexity of what government can do and can't do as well as understand the bad incentives built into our history and existing laws. We need a good brain at the top at least for a period of recalibration and review. We need someone who does not need the job or want higher office like Mary Burke. Maybe we need MORE funding for schools with fewer programmatic "strings" that bind schools into old ways doing business . Maybe the same amount of money could be sent to schools with fewer strings and provide more flexibility to build a better structure. So the facile answer "more" for schools is just a sound bite. But her point is we must support education. We must get that right. The huge and unusual economic disparity for African Americans and other people in our state contributes to our prison problem. Until we teach all kids to read and close the achievement gaps at the base, we will have a lot of people who know no other choice or life other than criminal behaviors because they do not have the basic skills and education to thrive in civil society. Crime is their only economic opportunity. And they have mental illnesses from lives of economic depravity and vice. So how quickly do you want to close those prisons? You have to change the foundation that is the pipeline into those prisons. How quickly can you reform that adult population for productive lives in civil society?
  14. AllAmerican11B
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    AllAmerican11B - November 06, 2013 9:26 am
    Question: "did she support the $650 million tax cut signed into law by Walker earlier this year?"

    Answer: “I'd have to see whether it put the state in a strong financial position going forward,”

    Mrs. Burke, I am listening to your actual words to get to know who you are and how you would make choices to lead Wisconsin and honestly your answer above did not answer the question!!! Either you supported the $650 million tax cut based on the available information at that time or not - period. You cannot decide whether you supported (past tense) something in the past based on hindsight on whether you think it "worked" in the future. The question was did you support it (past tense) NOT did it work in the future?

    Mrs. Burke please stop waffling and start standing up for what you believe in. You must lead based on all the information available at that moment in time, you don't have the luxury to have next week's paper to tell you how your decision worked out - hindsight. We all should learn from the past but you cannot lead with hindsight.

    Leaders must be bold; leaders move ahead in spite of doubts!
  15. PapaLorax
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    PapaLorax - November 06, 2013 8:11 am
    sounds awesome - lower taxes, fiscal responsibility, more educational spending...what's not to love!!
  16. Scootin
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    Scootin - November 06, 2013 8:10 am
    JAck, thats a hilarious headline. "specifics" and "views" and "issues" didn't really appear. Its more like

    "Mary burke asks vague questions about words people use during campaigns"

    Jack, maybe you could visit KV's website, and see her detailed views on every issue from frac sand mining to well drilling to state bond issuance.

    The fact that "serious people" consider mary burke a "serious person" scares the hell out of me.

    This is how Scott Brown got elected in liberal Massachusetts: Dems run a doorknob candidate.
  17. spzanti
    Report Abuse
    spzanti - November 06, 2013 8:04 am
    Mary Burke says "we need to look at that" more often than my doctor.
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