Republicans signal support for paid family leave during governor’s debate

Republican gubernatorial candidates signaled varying levels of support for paid family leave during a GOP primary debate on Sunday, backing a position that was previously backed by Wisconsin Democrats.

But on other issues, Republicans Rebecca Kleefisch, Tim Michels and Tim Ramthun took positions that radically broke with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, including expressing support for the state’s abortion ban in 1849 and calling for cuts in the state budget at a time when it is projected. to have a record surplus.

Sunday also marked the first time Michels, who rose in the polls, debated the other candidates after skipping a previous event. At one point, Michels seemed confused about a question about whether he would offer state education incentives to immigrants who were children when they arrived in the United States illegally.

On the issue of paid family leave, Michels was clearer. The candidates were asked about Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s suggestion that paid family leave should be offered in states that ban abortion. Michels, referring to his family construction business, said he leads by example.

“At Michaels Corporation, we provide paid time off for both husband and wife,” Michels said. “I will support health care and leave for mothers and fathers.”

Kleefisch said she was open to the idea.

“We also need to make sure more people go back to work,” Kleefisch said. “At the same time, we need to make sure moms and dads have time to bond with their babies. That’s absolutely something I would look into as governor.

Ramthun said he strongly supports Noem’s idea.

“I think when we want to solve societal problems, they start at home on the home front,” Ramthun said. “And so when you allow both parents to bond with their kids and appreciate what they’ve done in their lives and build that family and make it strong, you’ll have less trouble down the road. “

Precisely how Michels, Kleefisch and Ramthun would define paid family leave is unclear. In Congress, Democratic supporters of the idea generally seek tax-funded payments to workers as Republicans called for other ideassuch as the misappropriation of future Social Security payments.

In Wisconsin, Democratic bills that would provide paid family leave went nowhere in the Republican-controlled legislature.

The debate was produced by WTMJ-TV and hosted by Charles Benson and Shannon Sims.

Michels on DACA

Michels’ comments on DACA also stood out in a primary where candidates are working aggressively to court the Conservative vote.

Benson asked him what kind of incentives he would offer students to pursue studies in high-demand fields, an idea Michels said he supports.

“What incentives are you talking about? asked Benson. “And would you include that for DACA students graduating from Wisconsin high school?”

DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program created in 2012 by the Obama administration allowing young people brought to this country illegally by their parents to obtain a temporary stay of deportation. DACA recipients are also referred to as DREAMers.

Michels’ initial response explained the broad outlines of the incentives he favors, but he initially didn’t say where he stood on DACA recipients.

“It shouldn’t be expensive at all if you want to train to be a welder or a machinist or a tool and die maker,” Michels replied. “It’s a great investment for the state of Wisconsin to have our education to train people to build things with their hands.”

“Yes or no for DACA students too?” Benson replied

“What kind of students?” Michael asked

“DACA,” Simms replied. “Dreamers”.

“You know, I want to look at the details of everything before agreeing to anything.”

Only Ramthun is in favor of decertification

The debate also gave the candidates a high-profile framework to say where they stand on the idea of ​​decertifying the 2020 presidential election, a step election law experts and nonpartisan lawyers in the Legislature said. impossible.

Ramthun, who made a name for himself calling for decertification, was the only candidate to back him on Sunday.

“I’m surprised to be the only one,” Ramthun said.

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Michels said he would not make it a priority.

“It’s not a priority,” Michels said. “By the time I am sworn in in January, we will have already started the 2024 election cycle.”

Kleefisch was also asked if she would make decertification a priority.

“No,” Kleefisch said.

Still, she criticized the way the 2020 election went.

“I’ve said in the past that the 2020 election I think was rigged,” Kleefisch said.

A call for budget cuts despite the surpluses

All three Republicans signaled support for cutting the state budget despite a projected surplus totaling billions. Details, however, were scarce.

Kleefisch pledged she would support a flat tax if elected, moving away from Wisconsin’s longstanding progressive income tax. She said she eventually wanted to eliminate income tax altogether, which would significantly reduce state revenue.

“My goal is to eventually eliminate the income tax, which will require sacrifices from the government.” -Kleefisch said.

Michels said the state needs to be more fiscally conservative, suggesting it would do so by regularly reviewing each state agency.

“They won’t know what hit them. I know how to do it. That’s why we need more businessmen in government,” Michels said.

But when asked about his own budget priorities, Michels’ response was vague.

“I want to do election integrity. I want to reduce crime. And I want to make sure we have education reform,” Michels said.

Ramthun said the projected surplus showed the state was taxing too much, but later in the debate he suggested a way for the state to use that money to offset local property taxes.

“I would like to push very hard to eliminate the school tax levy on our property taxes,” Ramthun said. “We talked earlier about a surplus. This is a time of transformation for our state and for our nation, to think outside the box.”

The candidates do not attack

Given how negative the Republican gubernatorial campaign has become, the debate has been relatively quiet.

It looked like Kleefisch could go on the attack early on when she gave Michels a not-so-subtle dig for skipping their previous debate.

“Tim, thanks for being there,” Kleefisch told Ramthun. “Tim, thank you for coming tonight,” she told Michels.

But that was largely for the fireworks. The candidates instead focused on attacking Evers.

All three have said they support Wisconsin’s 1849 ban, which does not include exceptions for rape or incest. None of the candidates volunteered to add an exception to the law, although when questioned, Kleefisch said the ban did not restrict miscarriage care.

“Abortion is illegal,” Kleefisch said. “The treatment of ectopic pregnancy and the treatment of miscarriages are not abortions.”

Evers’ campaign released a statement saying Republicans had shown they were too radical for Wisconsin.

“The stakes in this race couldn’t be higher,” Evers campaign manager Cassi Fenilli said. “We can either go down a path where radical politicians are dividing our communities and our rights are no longer guaranteed. Or we can choose to continue doing what is right for our state.”

The primary for governor is August 9.

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