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Foxconn, UW funding, bipartisanship: Here's where Assembly District 30 candidates stand

Barry Hammarback (left) and Shannon Zimmerman

Wisconsin's 30th State Assembly District is currently represented by Republican Rep. Shannon Zimmerman of River Falls. Democrat and and town of River Falls resident Barry Hammarback is the challenger on the ballot.

Barry Hammarback (Democrat)

  • Age: 66
  • Address: W8170 830th Ave., River Falls
  • Website: www.hammarback.us
  • Twitter: www.twitter.com/BHammarback
  • Facebook: www.facebook.com/HammarbackForWisconsin
  • Education: Bachelor of Arts University of Oregon; Juris Doctor, University of Minnesota
  • Family: Wife, Pat; children: Arriety Lowell, Kate Hammarback and Sam Hammarback
  • Occupation: Attorney and businessman
  • Civic involvement: Hammarback Law Offices is a long-standing member of the River Falls Chamber of Commerce; Barry promotes and emphasizes the contribution and heroism of Vietnam veterans by operating a 1962 Huey helicopter at memorial and civic events and making it available to their families and companions.

Why should voters pick you?

I have lived here over 40 years. My wife and I both own businesses in River Falls. My children all attended and graduated from River Falls public schools. One of my daughters graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the other from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where she is an adjunct professor today. My son provides technical support for infection control devices worldwide from his home here in River Falls. All the time I have lived here, I've felt that we in western Wisconsin have been left out of effective participation in state government. We have not received our fair share of the taxes we pay. We need more funds for roads, healthcare, broadband and education. We need the state government to return local control to our townships and villages. I want to look ahead 100 years for our children and their children, not just five years.

Do you support the Foxconn project? Why or why not?

No, I don't support Foxconn. It's a poorly thought out, poorly executed financial disaster that will cost taxpayers for decades. Pierce and St. Croix counties' share of its $4.5 billion price tag is more than $60 million. Foxconn's payback time is estimated to take 14-25 years, and will not be paid by Foxconn — it will be paid by the taxpayers. All for an estimated 13,000 jobs, bought for over $340,000 each. This will make it more difficult to pay for road improvements, health care and education in the meantime. Importantly, none of this helps Pierce and St. Croix counties. Imagine if we had committed $4.5 billion to our schools? It would increase our intellectual capital, provide jobs throughout the state, and result in higher-paying jobs, providing a long-lasting effect. Investing in a semiconductor plant that at best will be outdated in five years is irresponsible.

Do you think funding is adequate at UW-System campuses like River Falls or are tuition increases necessary? Why or why not?

I'm a product of public education. I'm indebted to those who invested in state university systems because they knew that education was important to the well-being of the country. Here in Pierce and St. Croix counties, we agree that taxes for better schools are worth it. Education is what makes it possible to rise up from your circumstances of birth and make a good and better living. We need to increase our investment in our University system. We need to have the best professors, facilities, and programs to attract the most students. State funding of universities is now about 16 percent, with the lion's share already coming from tuition. Whether or not to raise the tuition should be up to the needs of the university. The current practice of shrinking state contributions and freezing tuition has reduced the quality of education in the system, and that has to be reversed.

Would you support a funding increase to pay for state road improvements? If so, how would you pay for it?

Most of the people I talk to want better roads and are willing to pay for them. Our current method of collecting taxes for roads based on the fuel tax is a good one, but it isn't correctly being spent. The people that use the roads the most should pay more of the cost. The problem occurred when the gas tax was prevented from rising with inflation. The gas tax now is 42 cents per gallon and should be at 47 cents. The problem was compounded when the current administration decided to continue borrowing money to make road repairs, rather than just increasing the tax. The amount borrowed for roads has almost doubled with the current administration. So now a big chunk of our road tax money goes to pay interest. Bottom line is, we need to increase taxes with inflation to fix the mistakes of the current administration.

Is there any room left for bipartisan cooperation on substantive issues? If so, how would you work — or have you worked — across party lines on major items?

I have broad interests and views that are both conservative and liberal. We need to get the most for our hard-earned tax dollars. We need to have effective and affordable health care, and to me that means a Medicare-for-All approach. I can certainly talk and work with most people. I have liberal, conservative and independent friends and acquaintances. While we certainly can have lively discussions, we all want the same thing: our children and grandchildren to have the same opportunities we had. My work with Vietnam veterans has been instructive. In the face of a vicious and divisive war, they had one thing—each other. Today, with insults, threats and incivility as the uncomfortable norm, I feel that at least here in Pierce and St. Croix counties, we have each other and can work together.

 

Shannon Zimmerman (Republican, incumbent)

  • Age: 46
  • Address: 429 Jefferson St., River Falls
  • Website: www.shannonzimmerman.com
  • Twitter: www.twitter.com/SZ4WI
  • Facebook: www.facebook.com/zimmerman4wi
  • Education: Attended Augusta High School; CVTC; UW-Milwaukee
  • Family: Angel (wife); adult sons: Josh (wife Mandy, daughters Taylor, Addalyn and Harper; Nick (son Montee)
  • Occupation: EVP Global Content Solutions, Amplexor (formerly Sajan)
  • Civic involvement: Rotary; Served on Board of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development; coached youth football for seven years in River Falls; UW-River Falls Foundation Board; UW-River Falls Chancellor's Advisory Committee

Why should voters pick you?

I am a businessman and a family man; not a politician. From our River Falls home over 20 years ago and with the willingness of a local bank to loan my wife and I $8,000, we built a global company that now employs hundreds. That common sense, results-driven philosophy is what is needed in government and I offer it.

A civil and respectful approach gets results. That is what is so desperately needed in this era of division. My love for this community is rivaled only by my love of family. My wife, two adult sons and four grandchildren live here, in our great community and I took on the challenge of running for public office to not only ensure a bright future for all of them, but for all of my friends, colleagues and neighbors here.

A strong economy, workforce and education centers make for a great community. I am committed to improving all.

Do you support the Foxconn project? Why or why not?

Foxconn only receives incentives after documented investment of $10 billion into Wisconsin and creating 13,000 good-paying jobs. This is the first liquid crystal display manufacturer to leave Asia. The technology will positively impact many industries, including auto, healthcare and entertainment to name a few. Foxconn is also taking a Wisconsin-first approach by awarding contracts to Wisconsin-based companies. Many suppliers have already started opening businesses in Wisconsin to support Foxconn and that creates even more jobs and revenue for Wisconsin. Rising tides lift all boats.

Furthermore, Foxconn is already partnering with the UW System and Technical College System, pledging $100 million to endow a high-tech engineering program, money above and beyond their legally required investments. That is in addition to purchasing technology centers in Green Bay and Eau Claire and developing a North American headquarters in downtown Milwaukee. This represents new opportunities and that is moving Wisconsin forward.

Do you think funding is adequate at UW-System campuses like River Falls or are tuition increases necessary ? Why or why not?

We have exceptional schools in western Wisconsin at all levels. These schools are the very heart of our future workforce and I have been and will continue to be a strong supporter of education.

Operating costs and inflation would support the idea that increases may be necessary. That is not lost on me. Yet, student debt is at epic levels and if we raise tuition, we may restrict some students from the education that our employers and workforce so desperately need.

Therefore, I don't want to raise tuition and run the risk of eliminating the opportunity for our kids to advance. Alternatives exist and this is where I think we can develop new ways our UW System can generate revenue without increasing taxes on those in our community and particularly those who may be retired and on fixed incomes where tax increases are already tough.

Would you support a funding increase to pay for state road improvements? If so, how would you pay for it?

The need for sound and solid infrastructure is vital to industry and community. Our counties and local municipalities are working diligently and fiscally prudently to get as much done as possible. Still, more is required.

A gas tax is unsustainable and does not align to the modern era of transportation. We drive far more fuel efficient vehicles than ever before and that is a good thing. Therefore, the funding formula requires a change. Tolls are completely off the table for me in this border district. They cost hundreds of millions to build, which immediately put us in the hole and would serve more to annoy than to benefit us.

The solution lies in increasing overall state revenues with economic growth, sales tax collections and directing more towards infrastructure. A novel concept perhaps, but rather than just tax more, let's generate more revenue to solve our challenges.

Is there any room left for bipartisan cooperation on substantive issues? If so, how would you work — or have you worked — across party lines on major items?

Last session, I authored a bill to reduce healthcare costs by enabling cooperatives to unite to lower healthcare costs. This involved working in a bi-partisan manner. In fact, 92 percent of all legislation passed by the Assembly received bipartisan support last session. So, it does happen.

Also, I am firmly of the opinion that the division and polarization we see today can be resolved. We have stopped seeing each other as neighbors, community members and team. We have allowed the national media and sensationalistic social media to divide us.

We may disagree on the how a problem gets solved, but let's not forget that we all likely agree that it needs resolution. We are stronger together and once we've all become sick and tired of the rhetoric and hyperbole, we may find an era of cooperation and true results. We must not forget we are all in this boat together.