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Special election: Senate candidates outline different visions for jobs, more at forum

The three candidates seeking to become the next western Wisconsin senator outlined different visions for attracting employers to the area during a forum this week on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Libertarian Brian Corriea said it's not the government's job to pick winners and losers through mechanisms like tax credits. Rather, the Wilson resident said, an overall "friendlier tax" system would have the biggest impact.

Rep. Adam Jarchow, a Balsam Lake Republican, said less state spending and lower taxes will help attract business. He applauded the state's manufacturing tax credit, calling it "a fantastic way" to entice businesses to set up shop in Wisconsin.

Somerset Democrat Patty Schachtner, meanwhile, said the state must encourage more partnerships between employers and schools to strengthen Wisconsin's workforce.

"Incentives are great, but we need to develop relationships to solve problems," she said.

The candidates participated in a forum aired on Monday, Jan. 8, on WPR's The West Side program.

Asked what made her the right choice after 17 years of Harsdorf holding the seat, Schachtner leaned on her community connections, which include her role as St. Croix County's medical examiner and as a Somerset School Board member.

"I am in the ditches with the people of District 10," Schachtner said.

Jarchow said his track record of accomplishment makes him the right person for the job. He said bills he's authored have helped everyone from property owners to hunters.

"I've shown my ability to get things done," he said.

Corriea said the time is right for a third party politician to join the ranks of Wisconsin's Senate. Voters, he said, are thirsting for something outside the "two-party paradigm" and submit to "fear-based voting" as a result.

"I am a fresh face," Corriea said.

Asked by a caller about support for a new state minimum — or "liveable" — wage, Jarchow issued concerns with the prospect. He said other states have attached automatic increases as part of minimum-wage legislation that "would be a real problem" for small businesses in northwestern Wisconsin.

"It is those small businesses that employ people in our area," he said.

Schachtner said "businesses should be leading this conversation" on increasing the minimum wage. Western Wisconsin employers, she said, need to remember they're in competition with Twin Cities businesses for the same worker pool.

"District 10 is not like the rest of the state — we have access to world-class employment right across the river," Schachtner said.

Corriea argued the free market, not government, should dictate wages. Government's role is to create a favorable climate for business, he said.

"The only way you can do that is shrinking the size of government," Corriea said.

Another caller asked what the candidates would do to reverse a trend outlined in a recent list placing Wisconsin 10th among states with the most people moving out — rather than arriving.

Schachtner said one answer is to invest in the state's education system, saying it "has been villainized for too long."

Corriea also cited education, but said he supports a full voucher system that allows families to send students to the school of their choice.

Jarchow argued the 10th Senate District is outpacing the rest of the state in growth and that more could be done to keep retirees in Wisconsin.

"We need to seriously look at our tax burden," he said.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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