The state's sweeping collective bargaining reforms — still being litigated in court — drew widely divergent views from area candidates seeking election to the state Assembly.
Asked whether, if elected, they would try to repeal Act 10 which eliminated most public sector union negotiations, reactions fell along partisan lines at a candidates forum held Tuesday in Brookfield.
"I actually voted for Act 10 and I stand by that vote," said who is seeking a second term representing the newly redrawn 14th Assembly District, which includes Brookfield and Wauwatosa.
"We made common sense reforms, said Kooyenga, who added school districts and local governments have and will continue to benefit substantially from "the fruits of Act 10."
Rockwood worried about long-term effects
Democrat Chris Rockwood, who is challenging Kooyenga, said the budget repair bill contained valuable provisions, but the significant labor policy changes should have been removed and voted on separately.
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"I would have voted against Act 10 in its entirety as written, although I prefer not to take an all or nothing approach," said Rockwood, of Wauwatosa. "I'm very concerned about the long-term effects of Act 10. I'm concerned that the structural changes create a significant risk in the long term."
Kooyenga and Rockwood and candidates for two other state Assembly races spoke to an audience of about 30 people at a forum sponsored by Patch and the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County, held at the Brookfield Public Safety Building.
13th District candidates weigh in
Also debating were the two candidates for the 13th Assembly District — Democrat John Pokrandt and Republican Rob Hutton, and for the 15th Assembly District — Republican Joe Sanfelippo and Democrat Cindy Moore.
Pokrandt said the full impacts of the collective bargaining changes are yet unknown. "I believe it should be repealed, yes," he said. "I don't support the stripping of collective bargaining rights."
Pokrandt, of Wauwatosa, said government employees did need to make sacrifices to help close a multi-billion dollar budget deficit. But he argued the uinons should have been asked to reopen their contracts to make changes.
"I think it was too heavy-handed," he said, noting the large demonstrations it prompted, as well as bitter divisions among family members, friends and neighbors.
Hutton disagreed, saying the changes were critically needed to help protect local and state budgets and services and prevent layoffs.
"As a (Waukesha) County supervisor I saw first-hand the restrictions we had in setting budgets" due to labor contracts, said Hutton, of Brookfield. He said he helped draft a County Board resolution "to stand with the governor and Act 10."
He agreed with Kooyenga that the changes to pensions, health insurance and other formerly bargained issues have saved schools and municipalities, enabling them to use that money "to employ more quality teachers" and preserve services and programs.
15th District candidates have their say
Sanfelippo, a Milwaukee County Board member, said that county saved nearly $25 million from Act 10. Without it, he said, the county would have had to cut 300 to 400 employees, eliminate bus routes, raise taxes and cut other services.
Moore, who served on the New Berlin School Board, said when she talked to local school superintendents they remained "uneasy about the future" with Act 10.
Asked if she would repeal the law, Moore said, "Repeal? I think it's a little too early to tell, but repeal is such a harsh word. Maybe but changed? Yes, I do."
Stay tuned to Patch for separate stories on the District 13 and 14 races, which cover parts of Wauwatosa, Brookfield and Elm Grove. District 15's boundaries, including West Allis, do not include Patch communities.