Wisconsin 7th State Senate District Q & A

August 30, 2010

We asked the three candidates who are on the Sept. 14 primary ballot competing to represent the people of Wisconsin’s Seventh State Senate District (incumbent: Jeff Plale) to respond in 100 words or less to our seven questions. We also asked them to provide their background and platform in 100 words or less. Their responses are provided on this page in alphabetical order within each party, the two Democrats’ responses followed by the sole Republican.

Chris Larson

Chris Larson (Democrat)

I was born and raised in Milwaukee County. I graduated from Thomas More High School, then UW-Milwaukee with a degree in finance. Currently, I live with my wife in Bay View. Before I was elected as a Milwaukee County supervisor in 2008, I managed a business specializing in running and physical therapy. My platform emphasizes the need for neighbors to be represented at the state level, instead of out-of-district interests and corporate lobbyists. This is a big change from the incumbent. I will bring strong support for investment in clean energy jobs, public transportation, parks, and education.


Jeff Plale NEW 2
Jeff Plale (Democrat)

I grew up and live in South Milwaukee and my priorities are creating and keeping family-supporting jobs and ensuring community safety. Investments in higher education are investments in our workforce. We should encourage new businesses in emerging fields like green energy production and the manufacturing of green technology. Badly needed development of transportation infrastructure is critical to facilitating business in southeastern Wisconsin. It is my responsibility to protect our way of life and ensure that our communities and families are safe through legislation that increases drunk driving penalties, provides GPS tracking for sex offenders, and adequately funds our public schools.


Jess Ripp NEW
Jess Ripp (Republican)

I attended both Marquette University High School and Marquette University. While in college I established and ran my own painting company. I attended Creighton Law and currently work as an attorney. I am an Eagle Scout. These experiences have reinforced my strong fiscally conservative principles. I will create a positive future for our beautiful state of Wisconsin. I will foster a business environment that allows small business to grow, companies to create, and inspirations to inspire. I am an ardent proponent of individual rights and personal liberty.


1. What policies should the state enact to address the continued structural state budget deficit?

Larson (D): Over the next budget, there will be a lot of tough decisions to be made in closing the looming budget deficit. It is essential that we continue combined reporting so that corporations cannot use tax loopholes to pass the buck to homeowners. This initiative was key in closing the last budget. I believe that we should also switch some functions off of the property tax and onto a sales tax, such as parks and transit. This is something I’ve long advocated to prevent homeowners from bearing the brunt of taxes here.

Plale (D, inc.): Wisconsin is in a tough financial situation. Clearly, we have to make additional cuts in government spending, but we need to do so while still preserving vital government services. We need healthy public schools, police and fire protection, and health care for the poorest Wisconsin citizens. We need to make big corporations pay their fair share in taxes, which is why I voted to close the largest corporate tax loophole in the history of our state. Families shouldn’t shoulder a heavier tax burden because big businesses aren’t paying their fair share.

Ripp (R): The budget is the number one issue facing Wisconsin. We must spend less money and control our deficit. Coupled with these principles is a need for our legislators to stop raiding dedicated funds or continually relying on one-time monetary influxes. We should never deficit-spend to fund an ongoing commitment. These policies exacerbate our downward fiscal spiral and unfairly pass the problem along to future generations. We should also mandate that every program automatically sunsets after a certain period of time. We should also adopt the rainy day fund amendment to assist with future fiscal crisis.

2. Please explain your position on the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

Larson (D): I strongly support the Clean Energy Jobs Act. It represents a sound, economical way to invest in high-paying, clean energy jobs that will dominate the 21st-century economy. Senator Plale’s decision to kill this bill by not allowing it to come up for a vote was a lost opportunity for Wisconsin to become a leader in this growing field. Independent analysis shows it would have created 15,000 jobs, lowered energy costs for consumers, and would have helped improve Wisconsin’s environment. As the next state senator, I’ll make sure this crucial bill finally passes.

Plale (D, inc.): I support much of CEJA’s policy. It did not have enough votes to pass in either the Assembly or the Senate because of its negative impact on ratepayers and manufacturing jobs. Wisconsin is a leader in green technology and alternative energy and we are creating jobs due to several of my environmental initiatives. These initiatives include the wind siting bill (2009 Act 40), the alternative energies bill (2009 Act 406), and the renewable portfolio standard (2005 Act 141). We must balance taking these steps forward with protecting manufacturing jobs and ratepayers.

Ripp (R): This bill is a job killer and an economic black hole. It would be ruthlessly absurd to subject Wisconsin to the island effect by enforcing stricter standards than are required nationally. This legislation is exponentially more damaging in the Seventh because we are home to companies like Bucyrus and we have a brand new We Energies coal plant with an available power surplus. Any new energy producing projects would force the utility to directly pass along costs to consumers by increased rate hikes in the short term and decreased appeal to new corporations and corporate expansions in the long term.

3. Do you support the “A Penny for Kids” proposal that would add 1 percent to the sales tax, dedicated primarily to relief for Wisconsin’s underfunded public schools?

Larson (D): I support this proposal but my hope is that any increase in the sales tax is offset by a decrease in property taxes to help beleaguered homeowners. My priority as senator will be to first fix the funding flaw that has allowed $57 million of what Milwaukeeans pay to be pulled out of MPS where it is most needed, thereby forcing neighbors to pay double for their children’s education. Milwaukee’s legislators should not allow this inequity to continue and I will ensure we close that gap.

Plale (D, inc.): Wisconsin’s public schools are hurting financially and making dramatic cuts, and MPS needs major, fundamental changes. We already have a mechanism for funding public schools but it will not work or be adequate if it is not funded fully. The state of Wisconsin should provide two-thirds of our schools’ funding. Schools must remain a high funding priority so that we do not have to resort to supplementary tax increases to make sure our kids are receiving a quality education.

Ripp (R): Even though fiscal problems and concerns are systemic throughout the entire state, Milwaukee Public Schools garner a majority of the attention regarding school funding issues. A regressive style sales tax has an appeal in that it will reduce our dependency upon property owners. The problem is that this type of policy does not attack the root of the problem. We need to reform a damaged system before we blindly throw money at the current process and delay an inevitable shortfall of an even greater magnitude. We must also focus on promoting school choice by lifting the enrollment caps.

4. Do you support raising Wisconsin’s minimum wage for tipped employees up from its current $2.33 per hour?

Larson (D): As someone who worked in the restaurant business during my college years, I can understand how low the minimum wage is for tipped employees and how hard it is to plan a budget that way. I look forward to working with unions and employees to find a more appropriate minimum wage.

Plale (D, inc.): I voted to support raising minimum wage and indexing the amount to increases in inflation to cover cost of living expenses. As inflation goes up, so would minimum wage. This included minimum wage increases for tipped employees. A worker’s minimum wage should appropriately reflect the economy that they are budgeting for.

Ripp (R): Raising any minimum wage is a detriment to increasing overall employment. This is because any increase in the costs of operating a business negatively impacts the profitability of the establishment. These increased costs will in turn be passed along to the customers by an increase in prices or a reduction in the services provided. In these extremely harsh economic times we should be going out of our way to foster small business growth and promote expansion. However, I do support eliminating taxes upon tips.

5. Do you support merging Milwaukee city and county governments?

Larson (D): I support the general principle, which has worked in other jurisdictions like Marion County (Indianapolis) and Pittsburgh, but there are significant logistical challenges that need to be addressed. Any proposal under consideration would need to protect the quality of services, the rights of employees, and create efficiencies. We need to work together regionally if we are to succeed—reducing duplicated services will be tough at first but it’s the right thing to do.

Plale (D, inc.): No.

Ripp (R): One of the most effective and permanent methods for reducing government spending is through a decrease in redundancy and fixed operational and overhead expenses. An excellent and successful example of this can be seen in eliminating or merging different levels of government with common geographic and oversight roles. This proposal has substantial potential on its face but further study would need to be conducted regarding the many potential lingering county liabilities and commitments.

6. Do you support extending 794 south to Racine County?

Larson (D): Yes, I supported moving this study forward for Milwaukee County earlier this year. It would ease congestion on I-94 during peak commuting hours and allow for better regional planning. I’ll also work to get the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee regional rail line built nearby to further connect our lakefront communities all the way to Illinois with clean, modern mass transit.

Plale (D, inc.): First and foremost, the Hoan Bridge portion must be redecked in its current footprint. I am an enthusiastic supporter of extending 794 along the Union Pacific line to Ryan Road in Oak Creek, knowing that this corridor will relieve congestion and open up economic development. At this point, all plans that I have seen show the expansion to Ryan Road. I have not seen any proposals to extend it beyond that point.

Ripp (R): Having well maintained and efficient transportation routes are the lifeblood for commercial success, economic development, and regional appeal. It would be very beneficial for the Seventh District if 794 were extended south to Racine. Several considerations must be explored in conjunction with and prior to this proposal. We must first fix the Hoan Bridge. It would also be beneficial to coordinate with Racine County in an attempt to continue the route even farther south. Financials would need to be run estimating construction, maintenance, and eminent domain expenses.

7. How would you limit the influence of big money in the Wisconsin Supreme Court elections?

Larson (D): I support publicly financed campaigns for the Wisconsin Supreme Court and for other elected state offices. One promising system is the one used in Maine, where candidates collect $5 from a certain number of voters to demonstrate that there is an adequate amount of support for their candidacy before receiving public financing. This cuts out the big, outside interest groups that have their own agendas that might not be what the residents would like. The current system is unsustainable, especially for Supreme Court elections. The perception that justice can be bought undermines the fundamental tenets of our democracy.

Plale (D, inc.): I am proud to have voted for 2009 Senate Bill 40 (SB 40), the Impartial Justice Bill, which removed special interest money from Wisconsin’s Supreme Court elections. It is only a start to comprehensive campaign finance reform, but big business and special interests have no place in determining the makeup of the highest court in the state. Very simply, Supreme Court justices should not be chosen based on who has raised the most money.

Ripp (R): Big money does not win elections; the ultimate decision rests with the voting populace. Big money has little effect on the voting patterns of the informed. Wisconsin should allow unlimited funding to any candidate and from anyone as long as the contribution is fully disclosed upon receipt. The people of Wisconsin are smart, hardworking, and assertive. As long as they have all the information they need to cast an informed vote, the government should step back and let the best candidate win. I also think we should implement term limits.

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2 Comments on "Wisconsin 7th State Senate District Q & A"

  1. Arlene Hill on Mon, 30th Aug 2010 1:47 pm 

    Mr. Ripp: I applaud you and feel refreshed after reading your history and answers to the questions presented!

  2. Wisconsin State Tax Refund on Sat, 2nd Oct 2010 3:06 am 

    I like your post about tax filing. I think Electronically state tax filing is the best way for state tax and federal tax filing.

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