Education and taxes are the top issues in Pat Testin’s campaign for state Senate.

Testin, who’s challenging incumbent Julie Lassa, said he hears about both issues often as he campaigns in a sprawling district that runs from east of Stevens Point to the western edge of Monroe County.

He described education as a “critical” issue. He said voters are concerned about “closing the skills” gap and adapting both K-12 and University of Wisconsin System curriculum to meet the needs of the modern workforce.

“You hear from hiring managers and small business owners that they have jobs available but they don’t have the workers to fill them,” he said.

Testin said there are over 90,000 job openings on the state’s Job Center website.

“The fact that we don’t have the bodies to fill them tells me we have to do more with workforce development,” he said.

He advocates partnership between school districts and local businesses so that students can gain “real world experience so they can get a leg up when the leave the classroom.”

Testin favors the state’s private-school voucher program.

“I think the money should follow the child,” he said. “Any time we give students and parents a choice, it benefits everyone. It creates competition within the marketplace.”

Testin said the University of Wisconsin can be made more affordable by limiting general education requirements to “get students through the door quicker.” He proposes capping tuition at the inflation rate by consolidating management positions and cutting administrative costs.

He said Act 10, which stripped most public employees of collective bargaining, has saved the state $3 billion but believes it could have been implemented with less rancor.

“I’ve always said that if the governor had taken the time to build a case, we could have prevented the recalls or the massive protests,” he said.

Testin doesn’t believe the law should be extended to police and firefighters “given the nature of the work.”

He’s skeptical significant cuts can be made in the state’s Medicaid program, much of which is spent on nursing home patients and the disabled.

“I want to make sure we take care of the people who need the program,” he said.

Testin said tax reform is another issue voters often raise.

“Even though we’ve made progress the last six years ... we’re still one of the most highest taxed states in the country,” Testin said.

Testin was born in Marinette and grew up in what he described as a “hard-working middle class family.” While pursuing his degree at UW-Stevens Point, he recalled “working at factories, lumber yards and loading docks helping to pay for my education ... My parents told me if I was ever going to get ahead in life, I would have to work hard.”

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