Fitchburg resident Mahlon Mitchell is one of nine Democratic candidates for the upcoming November Gubernatorial election.
On August 14, he will be facing off in a heavily contested Democratic primary against State Superintentdant Tony Evers, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, former state Rep. Kelda Roys, Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik, political activist Mike McCabe, retired commercial litigation attorney Matt Flynn, self-proclaimed retired “eCommerce geek” Dave Heaster, Josh Pade, a senior analysts for J. Crew, former state Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, Wisconsin Senator Kathleen Vinehout and Dana Wachs, an attorney and state representative from Eau Claire and Stoughton-based photographer Ramona Whiteaker.
After visiting with Sauk Prairie High School students May 22, Mitchell sat down with the Eagle to answer a few questions.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your visits to schools?
A: I think it’s important to talk to kids about what’s going on across the country and hear their concerns. They’re the future, and it’s good to learn from the future and hear what’s going on in their minds. I think a lot of times people write young people off until they can vote or actually make a difference, but they are making a difference right now.
Q: What are your thoughts on the school shootings? What should we do?
A: First we have to keep guns out of the hands of bad people. An all-out ban on assault rifles; AR-15’s, Ak’s. The people who made those even say they weren’t meant to be in the hands of civilians. They are military-style weapons, made for killing. You know, No one’s trying to take away your hunting rifle; we have 500,000 hunters in the state and no one’s trying to take away their 30-r6, or their Remington 700. We need to do everything we can to protect our children while they are in school.
It scares the hell out of me to think … sending them away to school is one thing, but now sending them away to school means they could be shot up; that’s unheard of. So there’s a lot we need to address. Mental health also is important. Unfortunately, some of the first programs that are cut comes to school funding is mental health awareness. You look at some of the shootings, the general makeup of the person doing the shooting, there’s definitely some mental health (help) needed at some point.
Obviously bullying is a problem at schools; you find out they were bullied at some point in their life and they are coming back for revenge. There’s a lot we need to do. But the first thing is not to keep talking at each other and waiting for something to happen to make action happen.
Q: You talk about being in support of a $15 minimum wage. How did you come up with that number, and how will that impact other salaries?
A: That’s the plan. Essentially everyone in Wisconsin would get an increase (if the minimum wage is increased). We have a plan that talks about raising the minimum wage and restoring power to working people. And $15 an hour is just a starting point. I actually have a plan where we set up regional commissions around the state, employers and employees and the governor appoints a civilian to sit down and talk about wages. Because $15 an hour in Sawyer County or Adams or Marquette county will get you more than in Milwaukee, Dane or Waukesha counties.
There’s a lot of work to be done. But I’d chose to give everyone a raise because the economy is built from the bottom up; not from the top down. If we have more middle class individuals those middle class wages – that’s money in their pocket. They spend it. And if they spend more money, then more goods and services need to be produced. Then its more jobs being created. So that’s why I want to give the people of Wisconsin a raise. It will stimulate our economy.
Q: Tell me more about expanding the $100 child tax credit.
A: I’m all for if we have money left over to give it back to the people in the state and those who have children. But I think we need to look at our priorities and funding schools is my highest priority. You can’t take $1.6 billion from public education in your first budget, and put back $638 million and run for Governor and call that progress. School are still struggling. Local schools don’t have the opportunity to pay for essential services.
There’s 0 percent levy increases and we need to allow school districts, villages and towns to raise their tax levy to a certain extent to raise what they need to do to pay for their schools. There are school districts going to referendum not to build a new school or add a gymnasium. They are going to referendum just to keep the lights on. Just for operating costs. That’s wrong. So before we do tax credits I think we need to adequately fund schools and make our roads better and safer and make sure our people have a decent wage. And when we do those things that will make our state better as a whole.
Q: I heard you talking about our state infrastructure. What would you do to find long-term funding solutions?
A: Indexing the gas tax. I am in favor of indexing it with cost of living. Because right now it’s stagnant. So by indexing it will increase every year based on the cost of living and we wouldn;’t have to have this argument every two years.