By Ben Voelkel
In less than a year and a half, Wisconsin voters will go to the polls to decide the future of our state.
Will it be four more years of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who has proven he’d rather do nothing in the face of a crisis than actually help the people of Wisconsin? Or will voters put their trust in someone who is capable of making tough decisions the way only real leaders can do?
Listen to Wisconsinites and they’ll tell you they want a leader who can deliver a forward-looking, empowering agenda — a sharp contrast to Evers’ leadership failures. As Republicans gather for the state convention in Wisconsin Dells this weekend, one thing is clear: Evers’ failure to provide real leadership for our state through one of its most trying times has laid bare the need for new leadership in Madison and a new era of conservative reform.
Parents deserve more of a say in how and where their children are educated. During the pandemic, some parents were able to avoid remote learning by enrolling their kids in private schools. Some kids excelled with virtual learning tools. Other students found success with homeschooling. But those weren’t options for many students, who were left to the whims of their local school boards and may never recover the months of learning lost to lockdowns.
Parents also gained greater visibility into curriculum, leading to concerns about the quality and content of what their students were being taught, including far-left propaganda about the evils of our country.
The bottom line is this: we should fund students, not systems. And when the average voucher student costs the state 57 cents on the dollar to educate, there is no reason not to give every parent in Wisconsin a choice in their children’s education.
Lockdowns and pandemic restrictions shrunk small businesses’ revenue by 25 percent and ultimately forced a third of Wisconsin’s small businesses to close their doors. Surviving employers are dealing with more roadblocks to getting back on their feet – except now it’s not a lack of customers – it’s a shortage of employees.
This governor has refused to join the bipartisan majority of governors who have rejected bonus COVID unemployment payments, saying he doesn’t have the data to make such a decision. But you don’t need spreadsheets to know the state of the economy, just a pair of eyes and a willingness to get out in Wisconsin communities and actually speak with people.
Drive down just about any main street in any town and you’ll see “Help Wanted” signs on what seems like every block. Employers can’t hire enough workers because potential employees are being paid to stay home and live off the government’s dime. Instead of promoting opportunity, Evers has fostered dependence.
Those extra payments are set to expire in September, but the next administration needs to recognize the economic landscape has changed. We need to enact policies that bolster development throughout the state, attract talent, and encourage more people to seize control of their own future by passing bold occupational licensing reforms.
Counties and municipalities were forced to alter their electoral operations last year in response to the pandemic, with uneven results. Our state’s elections must be carried out with the utmost care by ensuring every county follows fair, even-handed rules. Big counties like Dane and Milwaukee cannot play by a different set of rules than the rest of the state, which could allow for harvesting ballots and significantly longer early voting opportunities. Every Wisconsin voter should have the same opportunity to cast a ballot, period.
And once those ballots are cast, it is critical they are protected from outside partisan actors seeking to influence election results. Wisconsin elections must be run by Wisconsin elected officials, not shadowy outside groups backed by big money special interests. A number of solid pieces of election reform legislation are working their way through the legislature, but they’re sure to be stopped by Evers’ veto pen as long as he’s in office. The next administration needs to commit itself to use those bills as a launching pad to pursue a goal of Wisconsin having the most secure elections of any state in the country.
Ben Voelkel was the longtime communications director for U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson. He resides in Brookfield.