Wisconsin’s Choice Candidate Questionnaire
Name: Mike McCabe
Previous experience: I have a lifetime of experience in nonprofit leadership, public sector management, legislative and political affairs, public policy research and analysis, social justice advocacy and investigative journalism. I am the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation, which organizes people locally to challenge the political establishment to change its ways. Before that, I led the independent watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign for 15 years, working to expose and break the grip of big money influence over our government and advocating for reforms aimed at making people matter more than money in politics. I previously advocated on behalf of public schools at the Capitol for six years and ran a statewide civic education program for four years. I also have past experience as a legislative aide in the state assembly and as a newspaper reporter covering local government.
Hometown: Curtiss, Wisconsin
1. Environment and energy
I want Wisconsin to be the nation’s clean energy capital. It should be our goal to be the first state in the nation to be fully powered by renewable energy. This means putting our government actively to work incentivizing clean energy development instead of erecting barriers to wind farms and solar development and rejecting federal funding for high-speed rail. If Wisconsin were just keeping pace with neighboring states in the Great Lakes region in producing clean energy jobs, 30,000 more people would be employed in that sector. I want an independent DNR with a secretary chosen by the Natural Resources Board and not the governor. I’ll bring back DNR scientists who were let go by the agency’s current leadership. The agency scrubbed any mention of climate change from its website. I will reverse that decision. I’ll also reverse the agency’s practice of letting polluters write their own pollution permits.
I ultimately want a national solution in the form of a single-payer Medicare for All system. I want Wisconsin to be a national leader on health care, setting an example for America to follow. I will start by taking three steps: 1) Take the federal Medicaid expansion funds Wisconsin has turned down, enabling the state to cover an additional 84,000 people; 2) Reverse the mistake Wisconsin made when the current administration chose not to set up its own health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act; and 3) make BadgerCare a public option on the insurance exchange, available to anyone in the state regardless of income. I was the first candidate in the field to call for making BadgerCare a public option, which can be accomplished by changing a single word in state law (http://www.governorbluejeans.com/change_one_word_in_state_law_and_make_badgercare_an_option_for_all_badgers_mccabe_proposes).
3. Education (all levels)
Wisconsin needs to fully restore the funding for our K-12 public schools that was cut. A big part of the problem is that Wisconsin is trying to fund two separate and parallel systems of education, one public and one private. The school voucher system is siphoning funding away from public schools and severely weakening them. We need to eliminate the voucher program and focus our resources on our public schools. For higher education, Wisconsin’s goal has to be affordable, debt-free education and job training for everyone. That means restoring levels of general state support for the university system and technical colleges that Wisconsin sustained in the past but has abandoned in more recent years. One of the many ways to pay for this increased investment is to close the state’s corporate welfare office – the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation – and use the savings to provide more state support to the university system.
4. Voting rights and campaign finance
For decades I worked on democracy issues and voting rights as director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. I am a long-time opponent of photo ID requirements for voting and other voter suppression measures and worked for years to prevent their enactment in Wisconsin, and then continued working for repeal of voter suppression laws once they were made. As governor, I will pursue a package of reforms to strengthen voting rights and rid Wisconsin of cronyism, corruption and legal bribery. I have been a leading voice in Wisconsin for campaign finance reform and publicly financed elections and am campaigning to free Wisconsin from the clutches of big money influence. But it’s not enough to say we need reform, it’s necessary to lead by example and refuse to play along with the corrupt system while seeking office. I stand alone among the candidates for governor in doing so.
5. Public safety, policing, and mass incarceration
I favor moving Wisconsin’s approach to crime and punishment in Minnesota’s direction. Minnesota incarcerates half as many people as Wisconsin, yet the two states have virtually identical crime rates. Minnesota relies much more on alternative sentencing and treatment programs for mental health problems and drug addiction. I also support fully legalizing marijuana. Current drug laws have proven ineffective, counterproductive and racially discriminatory. Drug laws making a second marijuana possession charge a felony don’t make communities safer or improve public health, they only fill jail cells with nonviolent offenders. That drives mass incarceration and is a key reason why Wisconsin spends more of its state budget on prisons than on the entire university system. We also need to reverse the militarization of police forces and the change of philosophy that has moved policing away from a “protect and serve” mission to one that can best be described as “intimidate and control.”
6. Wages and workers rights
Wisconsin should settle for nothing less than a living wage for every worker. I put forward a detailed plan for yearly increases in the minimum wage to bring the wage floor up to $15 an hour. Act 10 is not a sustainable policy and should be repealed as part of a package of reforms rewriting the state’s labor laws to help all workers in every sector of the economy that includes reversing wage suppression policies such as the so-called “Right to Work” law. Act 10 has badly damaged morale in the teaching profession and the state now faces an exodus of teachers as more experienced educators than ever are choosing to leave the profession early while fewer young people are showing interest in entering it by enrolling in teacher training programs. This will have a devastating impact on the state’s schools over the long haul.
Wisconsin can’t have a good economy and bad roads. Wisconsin is 49th out of 50 states in road quality. Of all the options for taking care of our roads and bridges, the two worst ones – neglecting our transportation infrastructure and relying on heavy borrowing – have been the pillars of state transportation policy for years. We need to pay as we pave. Gas tax indexing should be restored so revenue keeps pace with rising costs. Another urgently needed infrastructure investment is broadband. Wisconsin currently ranks 49th nationally in Internet speed. Bringing high-speed Internet to all parts of Wisconsin will cost close to $1 billion. I’m calling for adding $200 million a year to the budget for five years to accomplish the task. I also support removing state policy barriers to the participation of cities, villages, towns, counties, rural cooperatives and nonprofit enterprises in building out high-speed networks and providing Internet service.
Wisconsin should actively resist the backward agenda of the current federal administration on immigration. I support driver card legislation for immigrants in Wisconsin who don’t have a Social Security number and can’t get a driver’s license and auto insurance. I also support restoring in-state tuition rates at public universities and colleges for undocumented students in Wisconsin. In addition, Wisconsin should be made a safe harbor for Dreamers. DACA has allowed more than 7,500 young people to live and work legally in the state and has undeniably benefited the state’s economy. Ending DACA protections is not only unjust immigration policy, it would take well over $400 million out of Wisconsin’s economy annually. Wisconsin needs a new administration that will set a tone that is welcoming and hospitable toward immigrants rather suspicious and hostile.
9. Jobs and the economy
Crony capitalism and corporate welfare are no way to build a sturdy economy. Wisconsin’s current strategy of trying to stimulate the economy from the top down by showering tax breaks and state subsidies on a few in hopes that some of what they are given will filter down to the rest of us is a failed approach that leaves Wisconsin in the position of losing more of its middle class than any state in the nation so far in the 21st Century. We now have levels of economic inequality not seen in this state since the Great Depression. Wisconsin needs to do an about-face and pursue economic development from the bottom up, empowering workers by raising wages (including boosting the minimum wage to $15 an hour), ensuring health care access for all, providing affordable and debt-free education and job training for everyone, and bringing high-speed Internet to every Wisconsin household .
Of the issues above, which three areas will you prioritize as governor of Wisconsin?
Empowering workers and stimulating the economy; ridding the state of cronyism, corruption and legal bribery; restore Wisconsin’s reputation as a caretaker of the land, air and water
In the best case scenario, what does good governance look like? Who should the governor of Wisconsin work alongside or in coalition with?
Our government should operate in a manner consistent with the words of Fighting Bob La Follette that are inscribed on the ceiling of the governor’s conference room: “The will of the people is the law of the land.” Currently the people’s business is not being conducted in keeping with those words. The wishes of a wealthy, well-connected and privileged few are taking precedence on issue after issue.
People’s voices are not being heard at the Capitol. Public hearings on legislation are shams. If elected, I intend to periodically move state government to different parts of the state, bringing cabinet officials and heads of state departments to inner-city neighborhoods and rural communities alike so I and those working in my administration can hear directly from local residents. People shouldn’t have to travel to Madison to be heard. State government should come to them. Temporarily relocating state government to rural and urban settings not only will amplify the voices of those living in those communities, it will improve access to state programs and services as well.
Wisconsin needs to recommit to protection of civil rights. When the old Jim Crow segregation laws were swept away by the civil rights legislation of the 1960s, those wanting the continuation of racist policies got to work building a new Jim Crow, which stands on two legs: mass incarceration and voter suppression. Both need to be eliminated everywhere in our state. We need to cut the legs out from under the new Jim Crow.
What efforts is your campaign making to recruit and engage volunteers?
Of all the candidates in the race, our campaign has put the greatest effort into a ground game and has assembled by far the largest statewide brigade of volunteers, with more than 700 people enlisting so far in our grassroots volunteer networks. We have identified regional, county and zip code captains throughout the state who are actively recruiting even more volunteers in their areas. The campaign is dedicated to direct voter outreach, already traveling more than 60,000 miles since I announced my candidacy last September.