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Election 2016: Assembly District 29

Republican Rob Stafsholt (left) and Democrat Scottie Ard (right), both of New Richmond, face off in the race for the 29th Assembly seat. (Submitted photos)

With the 2016 Fall Election slated for Tuesday, Nov. 8, we here at the New Richmond News provide profiles of the candidates running for office.

New Richmond is the focal point of the 29th Assembly District as Republican Rob Stafsholt and Democrat Scottie Ard face off in the race for the seat previously held by the retired John Murtha.

A moderated candidate forum event sponsored by the VFW Auxiliary of Post 10818 New Richmond/St. Croix County is available by clicking here ...

Other candidate profiles featured in the past couple of weeks include the 30th Assembly District candidate; the 7th Congressional District; the 28th Assembly District; the U.S. Senate race; and the St. Croix County District attorney's race (View forum here).

In addition to the 29th Assembly District candidates are the district attorney candidates - Democrat Sarah Yacoub and Republican Michael Nieskes.

The following, in their own words, are the answers to the questions we provided them. 

Rob Stafsholt

Age: 40

Address: New Richmond

Occupation: small business owner & farmer

Education: attended UW-Eau Claire & UW-River Falls

Family: one daughter

Civic involvement: Served on Erin Prairie Planning Commision

Q. The condition of our roads in this Assembly district and across the state are being questioned in light of the issues surrounding transportation funding. Do you think there should be greater funding for transportation? If so, how do tax increases or budget cuts figure into your solution?

A. I believe we need to look at where the money in the transportation budget is currently being spent. As the representative for the 29th Assembly District, I believe my responsibility would be to the people of this district and so I would go to Madison and work hard to get more money up here for our roads in this district. I have listened to many of the citizens of this district as I have traveled around campaigning tell me we need to work on our roads — that is what I will do if elected.

Q. The trend in education appears to be that there are fewer qualified teachers available and fewer dollars being provided for public schools. What is your stance on the funding of education in light of the competition for dollars that has come from the state’s increased funding of voucher schools?

A. This question comes up a lot, so I dug into it and got some information about it.

I would first like to point out that there was zero students in District 29 enrolled in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (the voucher program that allows students to attend private schools with tax dollars) as reported for last school year by DPI.

The numbers are not available for this year yet, but expect it would be relatively close to zero again.

Another program that is used here is school choice that seems to be considered a great option for our families. I also think it is important to realize that if you look at school funding in our 29th Assembly District since Act 10 went into effect I think you will be surprised — I was.

I found that funding has actually increased for the districts of Baldwin-Woodville, Glenwood City, New Richmond, and St. Croix Central. There has been a funding reduction in Boyceville of 1.3 percent and a reduction in Menomonie of 1.8 percent.

If you lump them all together you will find that schools across this Assembly District have increased an average of 7.8 percent over that time period — or an increase of $5.4 million.

I have a daughter that is in the eighth grade, so as a parent I will work hard to ensure we continue to have quality educational opportunities for our children.

Q. Western Wisconsin historically has been an agriculture-driven economy, but with the decrease in the number of farms in District 29, and the rock-bottom prices for commodities at the present time, what measures will you take to ensure that the farming communities remain viable for years to come?

A. I am a fourth generation farmer in District 29.

I think the agriculture community is very good at adapting to changing economic environments.

With today’s technologies and equipment, farmers today are more efficient in their outputs than ever to produce the best return they can. Farming today is often a very high volume and low margin business. I will work to make sure we don’t burden today’s farmers with unnecessary over-regulations. I will also try to promote smaller, new kinds of “niche farms,” like people who raise produce and sell directly to consumers. I was excited to tour the ag classroom at NRHS and see that they are teaching our kids about all kinds of farming, including fish farming in their large tanks. It has been estimated that our farmers will have to raise double the amount of food they are now by the year 2050 to be able to feed the population of the world. Although I think that has its challenges, I would say that the long-term need for farmers in our communities is good.

Q. Health care is a continuing issue, especially in light of our aging population here in this state. Are there specific health care issues you might champion to help your constituents here in the 29th Assembly District?

A. Health care is a mess. I don’t know how much we can do to completely overhaul the system on a state level as I think that requires federal leadership to do its part first.

I do think we can do things that help reduce costs, add transparency to health care customers, and give our communities additional choices for lower lever and more routine type health care activities.

Q. Are you in favor of raising the minimum wage in the state of Wisconsin? Please explain your stance.

A. No I am not. I believe in free market economics.

I believe the supply of workers and the demand for workers should dictate how much someone is willing to work for or how much an employer is willing to pay to get the staff it needs.

I am amazed at all the “help wanted” signs and ads I see across our district and I see the ones that post their “starting at” wage are almost always well above the current minimum wage as well as above what the minimum wage might be raised to.

That is good — it means the free market is working.

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Scottie ArdScottie Ard

Age: 57

Address: New Richmond

Occupation: Technical/Grant Writer

Education: University of Wisconsin Superior, College of St. Catherine

Family: The daughter of Esther S. Wentz, two brothers and two sisters, nieces, nephews, Butch and Oreo

Civic involvement: Elected District 2 Alderman New Richmond City Council 2011, currently serving as Chair of Public Safety, 2016 Chair Board of Review, Library Board, Ethics, Community Development Authority, Emergency Government, New Richmond Housing Authority, Finance Committee and previously Historic Preservation Board. St. Croix County Health Center Construction and Public Relations Committees. League of Wisconsin Municipalities Lobby Team and Rapid Response Team. POC for the 50th Commemoration of the Vietnam War. In 2015 produced the “Moving Wall,” and VFW State Loyalty Day Parade continuing with the annual Loyalty Day Parade. Established NR-National Night Out and am active with the Chamber of Commerce.

Q. The condition of our roads in this Assembly district and across the state is being questioned in light of the issues surrounding transportation funding. Do you think there should be greater funding for transportation? If so, how do tax increases or budget cuts figure into your solution?

A. The immediate solution would be to raise the gas tax as every vehicle is affected; however in doing so the increase must also have a firm sunset based on the amount of funds needed for priority projects. Once the prescribed dollar amount is reached, the tax ends. A combination of fuel tax and bonding may be the answer. A five- to 10-year plan (depending on material) is required for all roads in order to ensure funding and maintenance. Future consideration must be given to VMT — vehicle miles travelled — which becomes favorable as fuel consumption decreases and technology increases.

Q. The trend in education appears to be that there are fewer qualified teachers available and fewer dollars being provided for public schools. What is your stance on the funding of education in light of the competition for dollars that has come from the state’s increased funding of voucher schools?

A. The WPCP (Wisconsin Parental Choice Program) began in the 2013-14 school year. To date, payments to private and religious schools on the voucher program total $10,557,520. In 2016-17 WPCP is limited to 1 percent of a given school district’s student population. Beginning in 2015 WCPC has been funded by a reduction to each public school district’s state general aid. The WPCP program is not equitable as participation is income limited, does not reimburse home school or online learning initiatives and utilizes public dollars for private schools. Investing in public education is an investment with lifelong returns.

Q. Western Wisconsin historically has been an agriculture-driven economy, but with the decrease in the number of farms in District 29, and the rock-bottom prices for commodities at the present time, what measures will you take to ensure that the farming communities remain viable for years to come?

A. Challenges to Wisconsin agricultural are vast. Federal trade agreements impact prices with imports; corporate farms raise land prices and lower market prices by the volume of commodities produced. As an agricultural area we must support and invest in sustainable farming practices and pricing. Stabilizing prices for commodities to ensure profit above the cost of production is a priority. Investing in research and technology to enable and empower farmers to continue to produce the highest quality commodities at a fair market price is essential if our farming communities are to survive.

Q. Health care is a continuing issue, especially in light of our aging population here in this state. Are there specific health care issues you might champion to help your constituents here in the 29th Assembly District?

A. Currently, persons in mental health crisis have no options for inpatient care without having to be transported outside District 29. The need for an inpatient treatment option is critical not only for the individual but to lessen the ongoing cost to communities. To date inpatient and respite resources for persons with Alzheimer’s and related conditions and the families caring for them are very limited. Identifying, establishing and partnering with providers will be essential to address the growing need for services. Ensuring that IRIS (Include Respect, I Self Direct) continues to serve our most vulnerable residents and their guardians.

Q. Are you in favor of raising the minimum wage in the state of Wisconsin? Please explain your stance.

A. I am in favor of raising the minimum wage; however consideration for and an analysis of economic areas and indexes must be done before determining an appropriate minimum wage for any given area. Greater opportunity and growth can be attained by raising the minimum wage based on these analyses. Oregon has successfully increased the minimum wage based on economic regions, businesses and industries. Higher wages result in a greater market share of consumer spending which empowers the economy. While this plan may result in slower growth for some areas, it does provide for a stable economic model for wages.

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