WGTD’s Iaquinta interviews state rep candidates Kerkman and Steinbrink

State Representatives Samantha Kerkman and John Steinbrink      (61st District)

On Friday, Len Iaquinta, from WGTD’s weekend show, “Community Matters,” interviewed state representatives Samantha Kerkman and John Steinbrink, who are both vying for the 61st assembly district seat.  Kerkman, R-Randall, and Steinbrink, D-Pleasant Prairie, are the two incumbents who have been redistricted into the same district.

The district includes the towns of Brighton, Paris, Randall, Salem, Somers (wards 1, 2, 3, 4, and 11) and the Villages of Bristol, Paddock Lake, Pleasant Prairie, Silver Lake, and Twin Lakes, and ward 88 in the city of Kenosha.  This interview/debate was produced at WGTD and took place at the Gateway Bioscience Building, and will air on Saturday, October 6th.

westofthei.com was invited to sit in and report on the interviews. Following is some of what was disscussed:

Iaquinta:  Please tell us why you are running and why you should be re-elected.

Kerkman:  I want to see the county create a climate for job growth and a quality education for our kids.  This will be my seventh term, if re-elected.

Steinbrink:  I want to see economic development and land use affecting the  economy of the community.  I am a farmer.  I have three jobs:  state representative, village president, and a farmer.  My mom said I should have one honest job.  It’s important to see how legislation affects the local community.  This will be my ninth term, if re-elected.

Iaquinta:  Did you approve the redistricting?

Kerkman:  Every ten years, the maps gets re-drawn after the census.  I did not support the map; I’m the only republican who didn’t.

Steinbrink:  It was a partisan map; it’s unfortunate.  Sam’s party was in charge.  There was money spent and lawsuits.  In a time when job creation is important, this issue was in court.

Iaquinta:  Was there a better way to re-draw the map, one more impartial?

Steinbrink:  Experts can do it cheaper and with less controversy.  They can represent the community better.

Iaquinta:  Did you support the change?

Kerkman:  It’s always partisan.  It’s an impartial branch.

Iaquinta:  The Supreme Court has not exactly been a model of decorum.  We have one judge accused of strangling another.  Is there a way to make things smoother, with less conflict in Madison?

Kerkman:  I have always been one to reach across to the other side of the aisle.  I have proposed bi-partisan bills.  One has been dealing with foster care.

Steinbrink:  I’ve voted across the aisle 76 times; Sam has voted like that 4 times.  The leadership has made it difficult to work bipartisan.  There’s legislation from outside the state that has made it divisive.  We need to focus on job creation; instead, we are focusing on divisive issues.  There’s no call to work together.  This past session has been the most partisan.  In the old days, legislators could disagree, but come together at the end of the day.

Iaquinta:  Let me ask you about some issues and see if you agree with each other or disagree.  Since the last session of legislation adjourned early, do you think that there should be a special session immediately after the election?

Steinbrink:  Yes; it’s needed.  There is a lot of unfinished business.  No compromise was reached on the mining bill, for example.  That was a big one.  It affects local communities, jobs around the state, and the environment.  This bill was not good for the environment of the state.

Kerkman:  Yes; we need a special session.  Mining is important to the state.  On our state flag, we have a miner.  This state was built on the mining industry and on agriculture.  I supported the mining bill.  It would have created 700 shovel-ready jobs once the permits were issued.

Iaquinta:  There is mining no where near us.  Why is this important in Kenosha County?

Kerkman:  It impacts the companies that build mining equipment, like Bucyrus.  My constituents have said that we need the bill soon.

Steinbrink:  It affects jobs and the economy throughout the state.  There are other consequences; it affects the environment and tourism.  It generates economic revenue.  It has a negative impact on it.  Safeguards are not in place.  The state has shirked its responsibility to local communities.  Locals were not in favor of it.  When it’s in your back yard and affects your air and water, you get concerned.

Iaquinta:  Let’s talk about home rule.  Madison controls.  What’s your position on the way the Madison assembly is structured?

Steinbrink:  It reduces our share of revenue for things like public safety and services.  Local government is more accountable.  We know what needs to be done in the local community.  The Department of Revenue increased 40%, but there are duplicate services of other departments.  They took in $22 million.  We provide the infrastructure, the schools.  That’s what made Pleasant Prairie and Kenosha County so successful.

Kerkman:  The state has a $68 million budget.  Half goes to education.  The other half comes from the federal government; therefore, there are strings attached, like for Medicaid funding.  The medical system program ties our hands.  We have to choose between education vs. health care.  It comes down to the local level, where we have less control.

Iaquinta:  Let’s talk about Act 10 (the collective bargaining bill).  It’s been in the courts, in the newspaper.

Kerkman:  We had a debate on this last year.  The Dane County judge has ruled it unconstitutional.  It has created nothing but chaos.  We’ve had five elections in the last one and one-half years.  Voters supported reforms.  One judge, one county.  There’s something else new.  If the federal government ruled it unconstitutional, it doesn’t affect the entire nation, only one district.

Steinbrink:  It was poorly done.  It divided the state, and we’ve remained divided.  It put uncertainty in the education world.  Public employees wondered if they were next.  People could have resolved their issues, but no dialogue was allowed.  It was a one-sided argument.  There was loss of productivity, resources.  Instead of creating jobs and moving the economy forward, the focus was on Madison and the disruption it caused.  The governor dropped the ball.  Someone needed to say, “Enough.  Let’s work together.  Let’s put Wisconsin back to work.”  It hurts the state and the community, and it left a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of people.  It affects services, morale of these hardworking people who educate our children.  It’s an ongoing battle against public employees.  We need to resolve it and focus on our economy.

Iaquinta:  Here, the unemployment rate is lagging behind the nation.  The state of Wisconsin is better than we are down here.  What will you do to get people back to work?

Kerkman:  The government doesn’t create jobs; we do.  We need to streamline the red tape the government puts in place.  I served on the committee that reviewed waste in the budget.  An example is the food share program.  We found misuse, both internally (caseworkers), to people getting cards, and spending money out of state.  We came up with $400 million in savings.  It was very rewarding.  We need to make government more efficient.  The second thing I would do is create a climate that’s conducive to job creation.

Steinbrink:  We are getting people working.  As the village president, we have to create the environment.  I disagree.  Local government creates the environment.  If no roads, no skilled work force, companies will not come here and look.  We are in a good position on a main highway between Chicago and Milwaukee, with two airports, the Department of Commerce, the city, and KABA all working as a team.  People are proud of the pension system here in the state.  People don’t want any changes, or for it to be outsourced.

Iaquinta:  What about taxes?  Do you want to see income taxes changed?  Road taxes, license fees?  Where should we be getting the money to run the state?

Steinbrink:  In 2009 and 2011, the governor raised fees to assure recycling and keep education funded.  People were complaining about fees.  Walker never removed the fees.  What makes people mad is when they de-fund the programs the dollars were intended for.  When the money is not going where it should be going.  The fees for registering cars is less here than in the nation.  The same with gas taxes.  People want to have taxes like Tennessee and Arkansas but they pay other taxes.  They have higher registration fees and a higher sales tax.  But, it comes out in the services they provide and in their schools.  We can’t be Wisconsin without the cost of quality education, quality infrastructure, and paying for that infrastructure and services in our state.

Kerkman:  We should have minimum fees and taxes.  There is currently a special committee looking at the tax structure.  There are loopholes.  We have a very complex tax form.  Eighty percent of people need to seek help to fill out the tax form.  That shouldn’t be.  We’re waiting to hear the recommendations come back from the committee.  We need to make our tax system more efficient and effective to put it above the other states.

Iaquinta:  How about a progressive income tax?  Should we eliminate fees or the fees we’re using?

Kerkman:  It’s like for hunting and fishing fees.  There needs to be a lockbox around the fees.  It costs $20 for a salmon stamp.  This money goes to fund the environment.  I support a flatter tax and have people pay equal shares.  We’ve created a lot of loopholes.  We need to make the tax form easier to understand.

Steinbrink:  Having user fees is a fair way of doing it.  In this way, the people who use the programs, now pay for the programs.  I think we need to keep the dollars in the programs.  People get mad when they see the dollars put into a fund that gets siphoned off and diverted somewhere else.  Like for the gas tax, those who drive more, pay more to help fund the roads, etc.  Like the sales tax.  Prime Outlets.  We get revenue coming in from outside the state to help fund our county and state tax system.  This is money that we don’t have to get from our taxpayers.  It’s important to taxpayers.

Iaquinta:  Whoever gets elected, I’m sure you will continue on the committees you’re currently serving on.  How would you reorganize the assembly?  Is there any legislation that you’d like to sponsor or co-sponsor?

Kerkman:  The Kenosha News asked me the same question.  “Whats’ your favorite?”  They are all important; there’s isn’t one special piece of legislation.  It’s hard to pick a favorite child.  I’ve been against fraud and waste, and the issue of foster care.  These are two issues I’m passionate about.

Steinbrink:  More economic development.  There are bills on the table.  We need incentives for businesses to get going in the state.  Sam and I worked on TID bills.  Local government plays a big part.  When the TID retires in Pleasant Prairie in ten years, Gateway will receive $1 million in funding for schools.  We need to bring jobs employers in.  We have a graduated drivers license, which has resulted in safer drivers.  There are some good pieces of legislation, but we lost our focus on that this year.

Iaquinta:  Let’s get some short answers now.  Concealed carry, and the education that goes along with it?

Kerkman:  I support concealed carry.  Training?  Yes.  The Department of Justice issued more licenses than expected.  I’m satisfied.

Steinbrink:  I supported it and the education piece of it, and law enforcement.  Legislation turned a deaf ear to the concerns.  It’s unfortunate.  Training is the most important.  We’re giving a weapon to a person who will be asked to make a split-second decision, and sometimes, that decision is disastrous.  I took a class, and all I learned was the knowledge of it, not the use.  We need to learn the legal ramifications of making an error.  We need to be responsible gun owners.

Iaquinta:  Please give us a quick summary statement.  Why should we darken the oval for you?

Steinbrink:  We need to work together on the challenges.  We’ve gotten away from our shared strengths.  We have hard working people here in this state.  We haven’t attracted a single employer.  It’s been a race to the bottom.  I plan to work on uniting this divided state.  Creating jobs, protecting the environment, education, job training.  We’re lacking credibility.

Kerkman:  I have a record of working together across the aisle.  I’m a mother with two small children.  We need to work on creating an environment that’s conducive to business.  Do your research, and reach out to us with your questions.

Iaquinta:  Yes, do your part to get informed, and get out to vote.

The taped show will also be posted on the website, wgtd.org.



  1. Come on over says:

    Mr. Steinbrink said he voted across the aisle 76 times. If he likes our side that much, maybe next time he should stay. He is welcome any time.

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