August 24, 2010
I along with 29 others sat in at Mark Neumann's Town Hall meeting in Kenosha today.
In his introduction Neumann made it clear his priority would be to bring jobs back to Wisconsin. He plans to do this by making Wisconsin the best place to do business & educate kids. Neumann preached tax cuts and promised to limit government growth to 1% under the rate of inflation.
His education plan calls for more accountability, more choice schools, more parental involvement and rewarding excellence. Nice talking points but the teachers union will fight him all the way.
To improve the business climate Neumann promises to eliminate layers of bureaucracy, eliminate red tape and shorten approval times for permits. Neumann also laid out an example of how North Carolina added 110,000 jobs by matching various business with expertise in the local university system. According to Neumann he wants to create 10 of these triangle zones across Wisconsin and then promote those zones and convince companies to move to Wisconsin.
At that point The Wisconsin Gubernatorial candidate turned things over to the audience for questioning.
The first two questions dealt with the proposed Milwaukee to Madison train route. One person was in favor, one was opposed. Mr. Neumann promised he would stop the Milwaukee to Madison train and return that money to Wisconsin residents in the form of a tax cut. How he can promise to give back these federal funds as a tax cut is beyond my ability to comprehend. Mr. Neumann did point out that Scott Walker wanted to use that money for needed infrastructure projects.
The next question asked how exactly Mr. Neumann would control spending if elected. He said he would make every department head re-apply for their position and would require private sector experience as a condition to be hired. He then indicated strict spending limits would be enforced. I'm sure that will gain him the union vote!
The next question was a good one, how do you say no to the federal government? Mr. Neumann pointed out the 10th amendment and mentioned powers that were enumerated to the states and the people. Mr. Neumann said the first issue he would fight would be Obamacare and he did indicate he believed the bill was unconstitutional. In a later question on the matter Neumann said he would seek a federal waiver for Wisconsin to exempt itself from Obamacare.
An insightful woman asked about the power of unelected unaccountable boards and mentioned the Government Accountability Board and the DNR. Neumann's answer here was cute, "If you don't like the boards fire the Governor." He did not actually answer the question about unelected boards with taxing authority. Neumann did indicate he wanted the DNR head to be a hunter and a fisherman.
The next question dealt with Arizona's immigration law and the attempts to boycott Arizona for that action. Neumann indicated he agreed with Arizona's right to pass that law and said if something similar passed his desk as Governor he would sign it. He obviously did not support the boycott attempts.
I asked a question about Governor Doyle's cap and tax plan. A previous Journal Sentinel story indicated Neumann said the bill did not go far enough. After a snarky comment about Milwaukee talk radio, and a correction from me that the Journal Sentinel was not a radio show Neumann said he would never sign a 25/25 limit or any other mandated limit. Neumann did say he thought the free market would pass environmental breakthroughs and that he would not support any subsidies or government mandates on climate change legislation.
A question I wish I would have asked came up next, if you do not win the Republican nomination will you try to run as an independent? Neumann said absolutely not, this is it if he does not win the Republican primary he is done.
The penultimate question dealt with underfunded union pensions and how Neumann would deal with that problem. Mr. Neumann said he would have to develop a business solution as that was a business problem. What that meant I have no idea.
Finally Neumann got down to his plan to shift property taxes from a yearly to a monthly payment. Neumann presents this is a tax cut, when in actuality you are merely shifting from a yearly payment to an escrow to a monthly payment to the government. You do not get to skip a years worth of payments. Most of the room fell for this but there was one very sharp woman in the front row who called him out on this. Neumann stuck with his claim that this is a massive tax cut though. The reporter in the room (I am guessing from the Kenosha News was all over her when the meeting broke up)
I've been harsh on Mark Neumann because of the negative tone of his campaign. He should be congratulated by realizing his mistake and changing his tone. He only mentioned his primary opponent once and that was just to point out the difference in how they wanted to handle funds currently dedicated to the Milwaukee to Madison train. Neumann never mentioned Tom Barrett, I thought that was a mistake as there were several opportunities to point out how close Barrett's views are to Jim Doyle's.
Neumann was clear, respectful to the crowd and for the most part I agreed with his positions. If you have the opportunity to attend one of his town hall meetings you should try to attend. Find the full schedule here.