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Mike McCabe on issues affecting the construction industry



The activist Mike McCabe, who came to prominence criticizing the influence of money in politics, is among the eight Democrats seeking to challenge Gov. Scott Walker this fall.

McCabe founded the advocacy group Blue Jean Nation and wrote a book, “Blue Jeans in High Places,” which is about special interest spending in politics. He also served as the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which track campaign contributions.

Although McCabe considered running as an independent, he opted to join a crowded Democratic primary.

Here are his responses to The Daily Reporter’s questionnaire:

1. If elected, how would you manage the state’s existing deal with Foxconn and development expected to follow the company to southeast Wisconsin?

I would insist that Foxconn be held fully accountable for living up to its promises and would pursue renegotiation of the term of the agreement because the company already has indicated it plans to reduce the scale of the project. I also would insist that the company strictly follow our state’s laws protecting the land, air and water. I would pursue renegotiation of the terms of the agreement with respect to Great Lakes water use, wetlands protection, and use of eminent domain powers.

2. If you plan to back out of the state’s deal with Foxconn, how would you change plans for supplemental road projects along Interstate 94 and elsewhere to support the manufacturing campus?

Wisconsin won’t “back out” of any deal. The agreement will only terminate if Foxconn breaches the contract or if the agreement is found to be unlawful.

3. Does the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. effectively shepherd economic development in Wisconsin? No. Why or why not?

The WEDC is a train wreck. The agency has a miserable record of accounting for the money it doles out and has not been able to document how many, if any, jobs result from its efforts. Large numbers of WEDC loans end up being forgiven without much of any return on investment. The agency’s purpose is to promote new business start-ups. For the last three straight years, Wisconsin has been dead last in the nation in new business start-ups. There should be a basic rule for government: If a program works, keep it and fund it. If it doesn’t work, get rid of it. By that standard, the state’s corporate welfare office should be closed.

4. What role to private sector unions play in Wisconsin’s economy?

When private sector unions were more prevalent, Wisconsin had a vibrant middle class. So far in the 21st Century, no state in America has seen its middle class shrink more than Wisconsin. We now have levels of economic inequality not seen in our state since the Great Depression. Giving more people the opportunity to have union representation is a key to having a middle class. It should be Wisconsin’s goal to erase the phrase “working poor” from our vocabulary. When you work, you belong in the middle class. What policies would you enact or support to further this view of them? A living wage for every worker, specifically a $15 an hour minimum wage phased in over five years, along with the repeal of wage suppression policies such as the “right to work” law. Belonging to a union should be made a civil right, which can be done by amending Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

5. Would you seek to repeal Act 10? If so, how would the state pay for the higher costs associated with a stronger bargaining position for public sector unions?

Yes, as part of a worker rights package benefiting all workers in every sector of the economy. If so, how would the state pay for the higher costs associated with a stronger bargaining position for public sector unions? First, by re-prioritizing spending. I support eliminating two failed state subsidy programs – ending taxpayer-subsidized private schooling and closing the state’s corporate welfare office. This frees up close to $700 million in the two-year state budget. Second, Wisconsin needs to make transformative changes to our tax system so everyone pays their fair share. Currently, the wealthiest 1 percent pays the lowest overall tax rate when all state and local taxes are taken into consideration. Closing loopholes allowing the wealthy to escape taxation and requiring them to pay a percentage of their incomes in state and local taxes that is comparable to what the rest of us pay would generate several hundred million dollars a year in additional revenue. Third, marijuana should be fully legalized and sold in licensed dispensaries. Legal sales should be taxes, generating upwards of $200 million a year in Wisconsin.

6. Do you support reinstating prevailing wage on state construction project? Yes. Why or why not?

I oppose all wage suppression policies. Low wages are a killer for the economy. They suppress demand and inhibit sales.

7. Does Wisconsin need new or higher taxes to pay for infrastructure projects? If so, what taxes would you enact or raise to pay for these projects? If you would not add or raise taxes, what parts of the state budget could be cut to pay for new infrastructure?

Automatic inflationary adjustments to the gas tax should be restored so revenues keep pace with rising expenses. Adding a few pennies to the gas tax is a responsible alternative to current transportation policies that are based on the two worst options imaginable – neglect of road upkeep and heavy reliance on borrowing for the spending that is done. Under the current state budget, close to 24 cents of every dollar we pay in gas taxes don’t go to pave anything, but rather goes for debt repayment. We have to pay as we pave. I also would consider a modest fee on heavy trucks since they do the most damage to the roads.

8. What is the solution to Wisconsin’s shortage of workers?

Make work pay by substantially boosting wages. And change Wisconsin’s philosophy of economic development. Wisconsin’s approach has been to feed the rich and shower tax breaks and state subsidies on a few at the top in hopes that some of what they are given will filter down to the rest of us. Our state needs to do an about-face and use our resources to build a sturdy economy from the ground up. Wisconsin needs to embrace geyser economics, focusing on empowering regular working people to do more for themselves and each other. Economic prosperity does not trickle down, it gushes up. We need to commit to a living wage for every worker, health care for all, debt-free education for everyone and high-speed Internet everywhere. Another key dimension of geyser economics is investment in infrastructure. We can’t have a good economy and bad roads.

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