By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Republican State Senator Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls (23rd Senate District) has decided not to run for re-election.
Kathy Bernier, who is currently serving as a Representative in the state’s 68th Assembly District, is on the ballot for the November 6 election as the Republican candidate for the 23rd Senate District.
The 23rd Senate District includes the 67th, 68th and 69th Assembly Districts.
Representative Bernier lists her occupation as a legislator and her place of residence as Chippewa Falls.
Her family includes three adult children and six grandchildren.
The Colfax Messenger sent out a questionnaire to Representative Bernier about her candidacy, and here are her responses:
• Why did you decide to become a candidate for state senator in District 23? I’m running for the state senate to continue serving my constituents by listening to their concerns and then going to work for them. I believe that we have already made a real difference in our state, but there is more to be done! I will continue working hard to make Wisconsin and the 23rd Senate District a great place to live, work and raise a family. I want to be your voice in the State Senate where one of my greatest pleasures is helping people, just like you, with issues and concerns that they have.
• What about your background makes you particularly qualified or suitable to serve as state senator for this district? I was born and raised in this area and put myself through college as a working mom with three kids in school. So I understand the challenges of making ends meet. I’ve served in both local and state government and have a proven track record of listening to residents about the issues important to them and then acting on them. I’m not afraid to take on the special interests or even stand up to the leadership of my own party when necessary. I’m committed to doing the right thing, because it is the right thing to do.
• What are the three biggest issues facing the state of Wisconsin and what are some of your ideas for dealing with those issues? My top priority if elected will be to ensure that we don’t undo all of the tremendous progress we’ve made as a state over the last several years. Unemployment is at historically low levels, confidence in the economy is booming and our state is in great fiscal shape for the future. However, there are important issues that still need attention. One of the first ones is education. Our communities deserve great schools and we are succeeding. Wisconsin is in the top ten for both ACT scores and graduation rates. To continue building on that accomplishment, I successfully fought for $600 million in new funding for K-12 education, including an extra $404 per student between this year and next. I also believe we must continue improving our transportation system and last year I voted for the largest increases to local road and bridge aids in 20 years and will continue to support additional funding for rural roads especially. Finally, when it comes to healthcare, while Washington struggles with skyrocketing healthcare costs, here in Wisconsin, I voted for a plan to hold those costs in check and even reduce insurance premiums.
• What are the three biggest issues facing state Senate District 23 and what are some of your ideas for dealing with those issues? Of course many of the same issues affecting the entire state also impact the 23rd Senate District, but they may have a somewhat different look here. For instance, we have a high percentage of largely rural school districts in this area, which is why I voted for a law that specifically helps rural districts through an increase in “sparsity” aid. That same bill also helps raise the low revenue limits for schools that have historically been hurt by this law and will bring them up to the state average. These are just a couple of steps toward improving a flawed school funding formula and providing more resources for our neediest districts. Another issue that affects rural areas like the 23rd especially is broadband internet access. I supported a new rural high speed internet initiative along with tripling the size of grants available for broadband in areas like ours.
• Other comments? One other issue that continues to come up is our workforce. The lack of skilled labor is an unfortunate side effect to our flourishing economy. While there is no single solution to this problem, there are a number of things that we are doing to tackle our worker shortage. First, we can improve our workforce here at home. I authored a bill specifically to increase support for our technical colleges and to better match workers with available jobs. We’ve also taken steps legislatively to encourage workers to get off state assistance programs and enter the workforce and to better support those who are already trying to do so. Worker training, apprenticeships, addiction counseling and mental health support are all parts of the solution.