Governor hears ideas from La Crosse foundry workers

2012-11-30T00:00:00Z 2012-11-30T05:18:05Z Governor hears ideas from La Crosse foundry workersBy Chris Hubbuch | La Crosse Tribune

In La Crosse for a statewide listening tour, Gov. Scott Walker fielded questions Thursday on everything from the federal health care law to bottled water and the prospects of Wisconsin ever reaching an income tax reciprocity agreement with Minnesota.

Walker spoke to employees at Torrance Casting as part of his statewide “Talk with Walker” tour, which he says is intended to gather ideas from Wisconsinites across the state.

Preparing for his second state budget session, the Republican governor outlined his legislative priorities to about 50 employees and a handful of local officials and lawmakers, including Sen. Jennifer Shilling and Rep. Jill Billings, both Democrats.

Employees were encouraged to ask whatever was on their minds, and they did.

Travis Tisdell wanted to know what the state could do to help small business owners help workers like him get more education and training. Tisdell, who is 25 and operates a grinder, said later he’d like to study to be an electrician but can’t afford to take on the loans and doesn’t expect his employer to pick up the tab.

Walker said it might be possible for the state to provide matching funds for businesses.

Ken Schliesmann said he’d like to see more emphasis on the state’s clean water supply — both in terms of holding polluters accountable and encouraging “home grown bottling plants” to take advantage of it.

Many of the questions concerned the federal Affordable Care Act, putting Walker in the awkward position of explaining the law, which he fought politically and in the courts.

One worker worried that the company would opt to pay the new $2,500 per worker penalty rather than supply health insurance, for which he now pays $5 a week. (Owner Bill Torrance assured him that wouldn’t be the case.)

Walker said he didn’t think that was the intent of the legislators who crafted Obamacare and that the law would likely be tweaked in the coming years.

Thursday’s event was just the third stop on the governor’s listening tour, which kicked off Tuesday at ACE Marine in Green Bay.

Thus far it has included only stops at manufacturing plants that were open only to employees and credentialed media. Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the governor plans to hold “a substantial number” of additional events in December and January.

During an interview with the Tribune earlier in the day, Walker said he wanted to get away from the forum-style hearings such as those held every two years by the Legislature’s budget committee.

“Groups from across the spectrum pour people in, and it’s such a big crowd you get two minutes a speaker,” he said. “I was looking for more of a conversation.”

Walker said he’s received good feedback so far, and some ideas he’d like to incorporate. Of Thursday’s session, he said one of the takeaways was the importance of his administration and the state’s congressional delegation working together to help people understand the health care law.

Walker has said he will introduce a budget in February that focuses on job creation, workforce development, transforming education, reforming government and investing in infrastructure.

But he’s also signaled that his agenda includes cutting taxes, expanding the private school voucher program and tying education funding to benchmarks, such as how well institutions prepare students for jobs with worker shortages.

Shilling said afterward that she likes hearing the governor talk about infrastructure improvements — and that he includes broadband in his definition. Access to high-speed Internet is a key concern for employers and schools, especially in the rural parts of western Wisconsin, Shilling said.

As for the transformation of education, she said, “the devil is in the details.”

Torrance said he was honored that the governor asked to visit.

In the 42 years he’s worked for the family business, Torrance said, only four officials have visited — one state senator, one Assembly representative and two mayors. And none stuck around to talk to the workers.

Copyright 2016 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(13) Comments

  1. ahasp
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    ahasp - November 30, 2012 8:51 pm
    It's disappointing that the governor will only talk to other people's employees when he comes to town. When will he go to UW-L and talk to his own employees?
  2. greatgeneration
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    greatgeneration - November 30, 2012 7:05 pm
    Did you ever notice that in photos of Walker's "listening" sessions, he always has his mouth going, yammering away? If he really wants genuine "listening" sessions, Walker ought to have open forums instead of lockdowns of employees at a factory.

    Walker--the great executive--could not oversee the felonious employees who are headed to jail: i.e. his incompetence. He's a dope in the thrall of the GOP. If he did know that his minions were committing crimes--and he should have--then he is an accessory and should join the others in the clink. Dump the chump.
  3. GrandpaS
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    GrandpaS - November 30, 2012 6:47 pm
    I will give Gov. Walker credit (gasp, choke) for holding these sessions. It's better than nothing. Now the question is, will he listen to what he hears? And I agree with those who aren't very choked up about the voucher system. Our public school systems have to have top priority and top funding, cuz that's still where the vast majority of kids will be going. If somebody wants to send their kids to a private school, that's fine, but then THEY should pay for it, not taxpayers. If the state is cutting support to public schools, and it is, then it doesn't make sense to introduce MORE funding for a competing school system, especially when the results aren't necessarely any better. Keep the funding in public schools and in the tech schools. That's where it's needed.
  4. Opus
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    Opus - November 30, 2012 4:00 pm
    Scott- when you are done with this publicity tour, I hope you will consider a real serious of PUBLIC forums where you will be able to hear from folks other than those "invited" to these silly events.
  5. Napoleon
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    Napoleon - November 30, 2012 2:10 pm
    Just like you!
  6. Napoleon
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    Napoleon - November 30, 2012 2:01 pm
    Captive audience?

    Republican officials can't get workers to show up otherwise.
  7. KrustyV
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    KrustyV - November 30, 2012 1:32 pm
    The old guy in the Green Bay Packer's sweatshirt that is standing behind Walker is doing his best to look half way inteligent. Normally he is drooling and has food smeared on his face.
  8. nels
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    nels - November 30, 2012 9:47 am
    reform education ? we;re tied for 2nd in graduation rates and one of the top 5 in act and sat tests which is the only standard test taken nation wide. wher the charter voucher system was born in milwaukee it shows no difference and in many cases worse. as for tax cuts act 10 has huge tax cuts in it that will benefit mostly super wealthy ,cap times article showed sen johnson who paid 695,000 in state tax the last 5 yrs would pay none under the new law that is being fazed in by 2016 . and the state borrowed over half billion so they could have a 233 million budget surplus. wis is now over 83 billion in debt ,how about paying that down instead of tax cuts
  9. Frangel45
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    Frangel45 - November 30, 2012 8:25 am
    Private school vouchers will only weaken our public education. It will segregate students to the haves and the have nots once again. Originally vouchers were created to give children in poor neighborhoods the opportunity to attend better schools in areas out of their struggling underfunded local schools. Opening vouchers open to anyone totally destroys that whole goal. Also, the private schools, according to recently published studies show that the CEO's of these schools are the only benefitting from them. Ironic that Walker and his ilk complain about the high cost of public school teachers and administrators. Have you looked at what these CEO's are scamming off of us the taxpayers? Please, everyone do your homework on this plan for vouchers that Walker is putting forth. It will only benefit the top folks once again while costing the middle class taxpayer more than our public school system. Just like our private mercenary army it is costing more with no accountability.
  10. Badgerocker
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    Badgerocker - November 30, 2012 8:18 am
    You got it I wonder if he needed a person to explain questions to him so he could come up with answers....................Dumb and Dumber starring Scooter Walker....but but I am a former Eagle Scout!
  11. lookout
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    lookout - November 30, 2012 7:38 am
    The people who were in charge of getting this private school deal, were and are great friends of a few politicians. It's scam of our tax dollars, all because someone has friends who want more money. A study of these school,s show they are no better and in some case worse, than the public schools. Its all in who you know.
  12. RINO Cowboy
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    RINO Cowboy - November 30, 2012 6:42 am
    Standards? Accountability? Nah. Gotta have the freedom to teach the next generation all about Creationism and how the Earth warming is just part of Gods plan ... all a taxpayer expense of course. Better leave out the part about the monkey taking questions though, it might be misconstrued to be evidence of evolution actually being factual. No facts no how.
  13. CelticMan
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    CelticMan - November 30, 2012 4:53 am
    So, a monkey taking questions is better than nothing? I guess.

    Private school education vouchers are a sham. Look at the results in Florida under Jeb Bush. They perform no better, and there is no "accountability", the new buzzword, since those schools somehow magically don't have to give the same standardized tests, don't have to report the same things, and don't have to accept all students.
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