Dave Kuhle is hoping his third time running to represent the 49th Assembly District is the charm.
Kuhle, of the Town of Hazel Green, finished third in the three-way 2008 Republican primary election. The winner of the primary, Travis Tranel, lost to Rep. Phil Garthwaite (D–Dickeyville) in the general election.
Kuhle lost to Tranel in the 2010 Republican primary. Tranel went on to defeat Garthwaite in the November election.
Kuhle and Tranel are facing off again Aug. 14, with the winner facing Democrat Carol Beals of Platteville Nov. 6.
“I’m running to get Wisconsin working again — not just jobs, but to get politics in Wisconsin working again,” said Kuhle. The 2010 election was about “who was going to balance the budget, and when he voted against the construction of fiscally responsible reforms in the state, that destroyed my trust in him.
“People can trust me because of my experience, because when I look at the last 26 years when I started in public service, the things I’ve done have proven that I’m fiscally responsible, and I care about people.”
The 2011–12 Legislature was a contentious session, to say the least, with public employee collective bargaining reforms that led to a recall attempt against Gov. Scott Walker and several Republican state senators.
Even though Kuhle wasn’t in the Legislature, Kuhle is touting the Legislature’s accomplishments in Tranel’s first term, including the collective bargaining reforms for which Tranel did not vote.
“When I look at the fact we had the first balanced budget in a long time, and that was made possible by paying off a $3.6 billion deficit and paying off unpaid bills, that was possibly only because of a tough vote by 29 freshman legislators,” said Kuhle. “While the election in 2010 was about who was going to balance the budget — fiscal responsibility, and the fact that my opponent was the only freshman Republican to vote against that — that’s something he’s going to have to explain.
“What Act 10 said to the unions was you may not tell the school district who you’ll have for health insurance. School boards, the people elected to run the school district, should be able to bid out health insurance.”
Kuhle believes not all public employees voted in lockstep against Walker in the June 5 recall.
“They’re also taxpayers, they want their property taxes frozen, they want their income taxes not raised, they all want the benefits of having a balanced budget,” he said. “When I was on the school board at Southwestern, one of the biggest issues was balancing the budget — we were a declining district [in enrollment]. But the thing I found was with working with the union at Southwestern, we had very good cooperation with our local union; we got permission to bid out health insurance, and we’ve been able to successfully balance the budget at Southwestern without going to referendum.”
Kuhle “absolutely” supports changing state law to require that the state balance its books on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles — which the state requires of every unit of government. He calls GAAP “the only way we are going to make sure that all future expenditures are within the current budget,” instead of passing spending onto future budgets — “making government more efficient, listening to people on the ground, is the only way.”
However, Kuhle does not support proposals for spending or taxation controls, such as the mid-2000s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, in state law or the state Constitution.
“It is more important to elect people who are committed to fiscal responsibility than it is to pass laws that freeze taxes or spending controls because there is always a way to get around it,” he said.
Kuhle supports changing state law to make recalling elected officials more difficult.
“There were a lot of people who were opposed to the recall, and that will be the first bill I will introduce if I’m elected — to change the recall laws,” he said. “People still want the right to recall, but they want to make sure it’s for obstruction of justice of bad behavior.
“The greatest concern is fiscal responsibility, the amount of money the state doesn’t have, and when you’re spending money on a couple extra elections … it was very costly and it doesn’t seem right that if you get elected with 50 percent of the vote, 25 percent of the people could say they didn’t like the results of the election, let’s do it again.”
Kuhle believes the way to run state government more efficiently is to listen to state employees.
“There is a top-down mentality that comes from Madison — this is the way we’re going to do it,” he said. “I feel we can’t have Madison dictating for the rest of the state; it has come from the bottom up. The way you make government more efficient is you have to listen to the people who have been working there the longest.”
Kuhle is a director for Badgerland Financial, and “when we make policy, we listen to the workforce. State government can learn so much from that — if we can make our state government services locally based, and if we can listen to people who are in the local workforce, and not one-size-fits-all, we can have that fundamental change in approach to how government works. [Cabinet appointments] need to be promoted from within and not be political appointments.”
Beyond state spending, Kuhle places a priority on economic development.
“We have six kids, and all have graduated from college, and none of them is in this area; we’ve only got one who is living in Wisconsin,” he said.
Kuhle links the state’s income taxes and property taxes being 30 percent higher than the national average with the state’s ranking eighth from the bottom in job creation.
“There is absolutely a correlation between higher taxes and poor job creation,” he said. “We have got to reduce our tax burden.”
Kuhle is touting his 12 years experience on the Southwestern school board as well.
Standardized testing is “one tool of measuring students’ proficiencies. But it’s difficult to compare one class to another class, or one grade to another grade. There isn’t a right or wrong way of doing it. There has to be enough flexibility where if a teacher is being successful, for heaven’s sake let them be successful.”
Kuhle said health care is “the single biggest thing facing the state,” taking up one-sixth of government spending.
“There are so many opportunities within health care,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure that the health care dollars we’re spending are for needed services and not spent for unnecessary tests or unnecessary medicine.”
Kuhle believes the state could cut health care spending by 20 percent by ending defensive medicine, through portability, transparency, larger purchasing groups and tort reform.