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Election Rematch in Assembly District 1

The 1st Assembly District race features familiar foes, in more ways than one. Democrat Dick Skare of Fish Creek challenged incumbent Republican Garey Bies of Sister Bay in 2008, giving the five-term assemblyman the tightest race of his political career. Bies took 51 percent of the vote to defeat Skare by the narrowest of margins.

Bies is just two years older than Skare (Bies is 63, Skare is 61), and each are restaurateurs – Skare has owned The Cookery with his wife Carol for 30 years, while Bies bought the Carroll House several years ago.

Here, we take a look at where the two candidates stand on several key issues facing the district. To learn more about the candidates, visit http://www.ppulse.com, where you can find their answers to several questions posed by our editorial staff this year, and also read profiles of each candidate from the 2008 race. Just click on the “Door County Votes 2010” icon on the right-hand side.

• Combined Reporting

Often referred to as the “Las Vegas Loophole,” combined reporting was enacted to stop corporations from reporting portions of their earnings in states with no corporate tax (like Nevada) to avoid paying Wisconsin taxes.

Skare: Because I live here, and work here, I pay my taxes here. I would not advocate repealing Combined Reporting. These businesses want to move to this state for our educated workforce, but they don’t want to pay their share in taxes to help us produce that workforce.

Bies: Combined reporting is costing businesses millions in taxes and they’re leaving the state. Look at Harley Davidson, they’re paying $22 million more because of it, so we end up giving them concessions to keep them here. We need to get rid of it.

• Job Creation

Skare: We need to expand fiber-optic in Door and Kewaunee County, that’s critical. I think biomass energy is a huge opportunity, which in my mind is preferable to wind. You have to look at the new stuff, the new economy, and you have to address health care and make credit available for small businesses.

Bies: We need a reasonable tax structure, not so many regulations, and a good supply of energy at a reasonable cost. I think it’s reasonable to set up more nuclear plants. I think that’s the most efficient and most environmentally friendly energy that’s available. I think that will help Wisconsin attract manufacturing.

• Balancing the State Budget

Skare: First, we need to grow our economy to generate revenue. We cut out the gateway program in the Department of Tourism last year to save money, but we saw tourism revenue drop from $15 million to $11 million partly as a result of that. We lose the tax revenue that comes from that. We have to trim where we can, but cutting isn’t the only solution. The Taxpayer’s Alliance released a study that said the Department of Revenue budget was trimmed so much that between $750 million and $1 billion in taxes goes uncollected.

Bies: It would take a longer process, but the idea of zero-based budgeting is a start. Have these agencies start from zero and justify line-by-line.

If we have all these empty slots in these agencies, why do we still alot this money even though they’re not spending it? Where is the money is going?

• Addressing Impacts of State and Federal Regulations On Businesses

Skare: Sometimes we need to consider whether small businesses and large corporations need to be subject to the same set of rules. Most of our major food-borne illness outbreaks, like the recent scare with eggs, are traced to large factory farms, not the small local producers. Should they each be subject to the same regulations?

It wasn’t a small producer, it was a big farm, but we pass those regulations down to local farmers. Why?

Bies: At the state level it really starts with the governor. The biggest message that the governor is going to get from me is, ‘let’s put the best qualified person at the head of these state agencies and get rid of the cronyism.’ Those guys set the tempo of how those places are going to run.

Supposedly this is what the hearing process is supposed to bring out. What are the long-term impacts and ramifications? I’ve held hearings where nobody’s really interested in testifying, then it’s passed and becomes law and people respond.

I try to look for, ‘Who does this affect?’ Through letters and phone calls we contact lobbying groups and look at how this is going to impact them. I try to let everyone have a whack at it before I have to re-write the bill 10 times.

• Last Word

Skare: I just think there’s a tremendous lack of leadership. These problems have been around for 10 – 15 years. My opponent has been in office for 10 years. Why haven’t these problems – health care, school funding, job creation – been addressed earlier?

Bies: I’m proud that I’ve never done any negative campaigning; I’ve just talked about what I’ve done and the issues. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’ve got a pretty long list of legislation – most of it was bipartisan – that I was a part of.