Evers, Walker debate economic development in second, final debate

MILWAUKEE — Dem guv candidate Tony Evers knocked Scott Walker on Friday for focusing too heavily on economic development in southeastern Wisconsin, while the guv pointed to historically low unemployment to argue his administration has a 72-county approach.

Evers, making an apparent reference to state incentives for Foxconn, called for a 72-county economic development policy.

“We need to make sure not all economics is just one Hail Mary pass for one-part of the state, pitting one part of the state against the other,” Evers said.

He also called for an increased focus on helping young entrepreneurs

“In turn it is clear when we talk about economic development, it can’t just be tax breaks to foreign corporations, it can’t just be tax breaks to wealthy individuals,” Evers said. “We have to reach out and make sure young people in the state of Wisconsin have a chance to thrive.”

But Walker countered he has taken a statewide approach to growing the economy.

“In fact, that’s why every county is at, or nearly at, the lowest unemployment rates they ever had,” Walker said. “Statewide, we have more people working this year than ever before in the history of this state.”

He also defended the Foxconn deal, saying the company won’t receive incentives if it doesn’t create jobs and said it is already exceeding expectations.

Meeting in their second and final debate, Evers again said he supports in-state tuition at Wisconsin colleges to so-called “Dreamers” and providing driver licenses to illegal immigrants working in the state, as he did in the first meeting a week ago.

Evers declared he was “on the right side” of the issues. But Walker said while he feels for those who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and are now have to pay non-resident tuition rates, federal law bans states from offering in-state tuition to those here illegally.

Though other states are currently offering it, Walker said they were violating the law and it would take the federal government to act to provide in-state rates for those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“The bottom line is this is a federal issue, and I’m going to stay focused on issues that can provide more opportunity for people,” Walker said.

Evers countered Walker once supported a budget that provided in-state tuition for those brought here illegally. He said the guv was acting like a “typical politician” and moving around on the issue.

“If I was a teacher giving a multiple choice test on this, he’d take d, all of the above,” Evers said.

Asked by moderators about sanctuary cities and states, Evers said he believes municipalities should be allowed to make those decisions and he would support what they did. Pressed if he’d support Wisconsin becoming a sanctuary state, Evers said it wouldn’t be a priority for him.

On other issues:

College tuition: Tuition for in-state undergraduate students at the UW-System has been frozen for the past six years. Evers said he believes tuition is too high. But he said to reduce it, the state would have to provide more aid after cutting $250 million during Walker’s first budget.

Evers also again expressed support for allowing college grads to refinance their student loan debt like others can with a mortgage.

“I believe we can make tuition even lower than it is,” said Evers, a member of the UW System Board of Regents through his position as state superintendent.

Walker, meanwhile, pointed out tuition went up 118 percent in the years before he took office and he wants to extend the freeze for another four years. He also touted a new proposal to provide up to $5,000 in tax credits for college grads who work in Wisconsin for up to five years after receiving their degree.

Climate change and the environment: Evers says he listens to scientists on the issue of climate change and pledged to bring scientists back to the Department of Natural Resources, make the agency secretary independent and restore the Science Bureau.

“We have to start making decision based on science,” Evers said.

He also criticized Walker for the DNR removing mentions to climate change from its website.

Walker said changing weather patterns are the results of human activity, among other factors. Walker said the best way to be green is to make things both economically and environmentally sustainable.

“The two don’t have to be competing with each other,” Walker said, noting state incentives for energy efficiency.

But Walker said he won’t “turn over a major, major portion of the state’s government to people unelected and unaccountable to the taxpayers,” which he said Evers is proposing with his plans for the DNR.

Transportation: Walker criticized Evers for being open to raising gas taxes and his pledge to develop a bipartisan transportation plan after he is elected, saying “we’ve got to have a transportation policy that’s on the table right now.”

He said Evers is telling voters to believe him “and that taxes will be just fine.”

“I’m a taxpayer, and I’m worried about Tony Evers being the governor,” Walker said.

Walker said his focus is reducing spending on new major interchanges in southeast Wisconsin and directing more money to local governments to fix existing roads.

Evers, who Walker has charged is open to a $1 per-gallon gas tax increase, said his “gut-level” feeling is he doesn’t want to raise the gas tax at all, but doesn’t want to come into negotiations with an approach already set.

Evers criticized Walker for his “line in the sand” on not raising the gas tax, which he said resulted in increased borrowing and local governments turning to wheel taxes.

“That’s a tax; Gov. Walker owns that,” Evers said.

DPI budget plagiarism: Evers, who’s been under fire for his department submitting budget request with passages copied from other sources without citation, said that the accusations relate to “a handful of citations that were left out of a back page of a budget document.

He said while omissions are an issue, staffers are receiving training to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Walker’s state plane use: Walker defended his use of the state plane and travels around the state, saying he’s traveled to tour schools, communities hit by disasters and has been in areas where people told him they’ve never seen a governor before.

“I’m proud to travel the state,” Walker said. “And I’m going to tell you, if you give me the opportunity to serve as your governor for the next for years, I’m going to travel the state over and over again.”

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