Laning, LeMahieu both tout background, experience

by Jeff Pederson of The Review staff

DEVIN LeMAHIEU Republican DEVIN LeMAHIEU Republican After serving on the Sheboygan County Board for the past eight years, Devin Le- Mahieu of Oostburg is vying for a seat in the Wisconsin State Senate in the upcoming 2014 fall election.

The Republican candidate, who has served as the owner of Lakeshore Weekly for the past 12 years, will square off against Democratic candidate Martha Laning for th the 9 District Wisconsin State Senate seat soon to be vacated by Sen. Joe Leibham in the fall general election on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

LeMahieu says he believes it is important to continue to carry on the recent tradition of conservation leadership in th the 9 District.

“This region has been lucky to have strong conservative leadership for over a decade thanks to Senators Joe Leibham and Glenn Grothman prior to redistricting,” LeMahieu said. “When they both ran for Congress this summer, I knew someone had to step up to take over for Joe.

“The state has come a long way under Governor Walker, Senator Leibham and the republican leaders in Madison, and it’s important we continue down that path. I decided to run because my private sector experience as a small business owner, my public sector experience on the Sheboygan County Board, and my involvement in the local community has given me the experience to keep Wisconsin moving in the right direction. The progress made in the state is just too important to turn back now.”

LeMahieu is pleased with the direction of the state heading into the November election and would like to see that progress continue.

“The state has come a long way in the last few years,” LeMahieu said. “It’s important to remember that the vast majority of legislation passed over the last four year has had strong bipartisan support. On certain issues, there will be intense disagreement and debate, and that’s healthy. The most important thing is to have an open mind and understand the perspectives and viewpoints of the other side, even though you may not agree.

“My experience on the Sheboygan County Board will be a big help,” LeMahieu said. “The County Board is non-partisan, where each supervisor brings his or her own unique perspective. Some are more fiscally conservative, while others are not. Some represent urban areas, while others are primarily rural. We have been very successful at building consensus on the County Board, and I will bring that experience to Madison.”

LeMahieu feels the controversial passage of Act 10, which effectively eliminated the collective bargaining abilities of most public employees, has been beneficial for the state in several ways.

“Governor Walker and the leaders in the legislature had to make some tough decisions a few years back to get our fiscal house in order,” LeMahieu said. “Under the prior administration, they relied on accounting gimmicks and raids of the transportation funds. It seemed like every time you turned around there was a fee hike or tax increase. Governor Walker came into office facing a $3.6 billion deficit and decided to try something new. His tough decisions to reform government turned things around. The dust is settling now and we are seeing the benefits of those difficult decisions.

“On the County Board, I saw firsthand the benefits of Act 10,” he said. “The reforms empowered taxpayers, through their elected local officials, to take control back and restore some fiscal sanity. All told, the reforms have helped save taxpayers an estimated $3 billion throughout the state. Here in the 9th Senate District, Act 10 saved schools $37.6 million. That’s money that that can go directly back into the classroom, and be used to retain and hire more teachers. The other major benefit of Act 10 was the flexibility that local government, including school districts, now have. We are now free to innovate when it comes to education and providing public services. Hiring decisions and compensation can now be based on merit.”

LeMahieu, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and business administration from Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, is enthusiastic about the flexibility Act 10 reforms have provided for the state’s public school districts.

“We have a great education system in this state, but we must never stop improving and innovating,” LeMahieu said. “Public education is one of the most important services the government provides. In the last budget, the state committed $380 million in new state funds into our public schools and educational opportunities for children. I support re-affirming our commitment to public education while using the tools of Governor Walker’s reforms to adapt and innovate.

The Act 10 reforms are also exciting for education,” he said. “School districts are now free to think outside the box and explore new programs that are in the best interest of the students. A marketplace is emerging for teachers, where teachers are being offered signing bonuses, retention bonuses and merit pay. “

LeMahieu also speaks highly in support of school choice legislation.

“ I’m also a supporter of school choice, but we must proceed in a cautious and thoughtful manner,” LeMahieu said. “We need to make sure that parents who cannot afford another option are not stuck in a school that may not be meeting their child’s needs.

“All children are different, and parents know what is best for their children,” he said. “We should empower them to make that decision. Every child is in the school system for such a short period of time, so it is vitally important that we make sure they have the best possible education during those years.”

If he is elected to the state Senate, LeMahieu plans to be active in creating a climate of steady job growth, while keeping taxes in check.

“To create more jobs we need to make sure government isn’t constructing barriers to growth, and that we are educating our workforce to meet the demands of the modern economy,” LeMahieu said. “Government doesn’t create jobs, but it creates a tax and regulatory climate that can either encourage or inhibit job growth.

“We have made great strides in recent years to become more competitive,” he said. “Unfortunately, Wisconsin still remains one of the highest taxed states in the country. I will work to reduce our tax and regulatory burden in a fair and responsible manner, to allow business to grow.”

Making sure workers get the training they need is also high on LeMahieu’s Madison to-do list.

“We also need to make sure our workforce can meet the demands of our economy,” he said. “We still remain a strong manufacturing state, which is good because those are high-paying jobs. But we also need to make sure our workforce has the necessary skill set. That includes ensuring our tech colleges are well-funded, and that wait lists for in-demand programs are eliminated.”

LeMahieu favors keeping taxes low as a way to benefit the overall economy.

“I am guided by the principle that extra money taken in by the government should be returned to the taxpayers,” LeMahieu said. “Money that is overpaid to the government should be returned to the hardworking taxpayers of Wisconsin. I also know that lower taxes can actually create more economic activity, and thus increase tax collection revenue.

“Despite the $1 billion in tax relief provided this past session, Wisconsin remains one of the highest taxed states in the country. We can do better than that.”

LeMahieu is particularly proud of the work he has done to reduce taxes and develop solutions to tough issues as a member of the Sheboygan County Board.

“My greatest success is the track record of the Sheboygan County Board over the last eight years which I share with the many other public servants I have had the opportunity to serve with over this time,” LeMahieu said. “We have reduced property taxes in four of the eight years, defeated a county sales tax, worked together to find solutions to tough issues, maintained a top 10 percent bond rating nationally, all while continuing to provide excellent and efficient services to the our constituents.

In his discussions with constituents, LeMahieu says jobs rank as the No. 1 concern heading into the fall election.

“The number one concern I’m hearing from constituents is the economy, specifically jobs,” Le- Mahieu said. “Residents all over the 9th Senate District know that progress has been made over the last four years. However, more needs to be done to ensure that there are family-supporting jobs available for them and their children. This will be my number one focus in Madison.

LeMahieu has been actively campaigning throughout the area in recent weeks to spread the word of his candidacy.

“My campaign’s main focus has been knocking on doors and meeting the wonderful residents of the 9th Senate District,” LeMahieu said. “We are on our second touch on the doors in most communities in the district.

“Meeting people at the doors and talking to them about the issues has been the most rewarding, positive experience of the campaign,” he said. “I’ve also attended and spoke at events all over the district, toured many businesses and schools and met with community leaders from all around the district. We have also been on radio and cable television for a few weeks.

“I’m asking for your vote because I share common beliefs and values with the people of the 9th Senate District and I have the private and public sector experience to get things done in Madison,” he said. “We have come a long way in Wisconsin and we can’t afford to turn back now.

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