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Skogen hopes to represent 17th State Senate District

Looking to unseat Marklein is Pat Skogen from Monroe. A retired teacher and dairy farmer, Skogen says that she knows the 17th District as her life she has been spent in three counties (Rock, Sauk, Iowa) that comprise the State Senate District. 

An advocate for family farms and people with different abilities, “I’m honest, hardworking and a good listener as well as an ability to think outside the box to generate policy solutions.”

She said that rural Wisconsinites can agree, they want their kids to have good schools, access to quality, affordable healthcare, opportunities for career success, a voice in local government and a safe and sustainable future. 

She noted that rural counties and school districts have had enough budget cuts over the last 12 years. “They want more of their tax money to come back to their communities,” Skogen said. 

She said that she is running because she wants to re-instill trust in the electoral process and the access to vote, womens bodily autonomy, and improve economic stability for rural communities.

Her first elected position, she has served in several posts with Wisconsin Farmers Union, served on board posts for SWCAP, Head Start, and CKC.

• If (re)elected, what would be one of the first bills you would look to write or cosponsor?

To overturn the 1849 law prohibiting abortion. This was passed a year after we became a state. 

Why was it passed? I wonder if it was about a man hurting a woman, or something. This law has not been on anyone’s mind for years, and when Roe made it void for all this time.

I don’t think it was at the top of anybody’s mind.

It was passed before women had a right to vote, and it doesn’t make sense for us to have a bill like that on the books. It is not in the government’s place. It is a private choice between a woman and her doctor.

The state is seeing a record surplus of funds. At the same time, the formula put into place that local tax levy caps in the mid-90s has created very tight budgets for school districts, municipalities, and counties. What would you do about both of these items?

I think the Governor’s budget addresses the surplus and the relief it would give those entities. One factor holding up that relief is the inaction the legislature, and Howard Marklein as the joint chair of the Finance Committee, on those ideas.

What ideas/plans do you have specifically related to economic development would you push for in the next term?

There needs to be small business support, and that comes in many different forms.

We farm. I haven’t run a small business, so I don’t have a lot of experience in that realm, but I know I love to see. What I love to see is a full downtown, all the storefronts full, and I want to see more initiatives where we support to help downtown businesses.

We have this economic infrastructure - I would love us to utilize everything we have on Main Streets, around squares, and make sure we are using the buildings we got.

There are also indirect ways of support, where we retain people in our communities, attract them in, and have them live and shop here. 

Look at the Platteville Public Library as an example - they could have built that anywhere in the city, and they chose to have it be at the top of downtown, which brings people there.

We also have other ways, like making sure we invest in public education. I am a firm supporter of public education.

Wisconsin was a leader - when you said you were attending a UW school, it meant something. It still does, but we have decreased funding for our educational systems, as well as services in general. We have cut UW-Extension, we have cut county conservation services, we have seen counties paring back on veteran services because of tight budgets. Losing programs, or seeing them reduced, it affects things. It makes it hard for people to justify staying here. That influences growth.

In the United States Supreme Court Dobbs decision, the court decided to put legislatures in charge of deciding the parameters for abortion in their respective states, and an 1849 law went into effect that is allows only for a mother’s health exception to an abortion ban. What limits or exceptions would you push for it (re)elected? What is your stance on different forms of birth control methods, like IUDs, ‘Plan B’ emergency contraception, or even the traditional birth control pill?

Any decision regarding a woman’s health and reproduction is a choice made by the woman, her health provider, her family, and her faith.

Local municipalities and counties have been greatly impacted by individuals who have been arrested that are suffering from mental health crisis, both from few choices of where they can take them, as well as high costs. What would you look at doing to improve what local law enforcement have to deal with on this issue?

The state budget process can allocate funds to schools, county social and health services, and treatment services, so the burden of mental health crisis intervention doesn’t burden police departments.

What is one area that doesn’t normally get attention, that you wish to focus on in the next term?

I think we need to look at our laws that deal with the corporate ownership of farmland. I found out during some sessions with the Farmers Union that we have laws from the 1970s that prohibit corporate ownership of farmland.

Now these laws were all written before wide use of different things like LLCs, S-Corporations, private principle groups, and so I think these laws need to be looked at - this is a subject I would like to bring up for discussion.

Childcare is a very big issue in rural Wisconsin, as there are often not enough places for families to go for care, and that is impacting businesses, who either cannot recruit employees, or have to work around an employees’ schedule for their children. Do you have any ideas on how to help communities in this area?

One idea I would like to look at is are there ways to improve what home daycare can offer, as the cost of childcare is high, yet what workers can get paid is low.

For me, I had a dear friend that had two little boys, and she had qualified for childcare credits, but of all the daycares she contacted, only one took those credits but didn’t have any openings.

I was a teacher, so I thought ‘I will just sign up to be a provider.’ Frankly, the paperwork was intimidating, and I ultimately said ‘I will do it for free, so you don’t have to pay.’

There has to be a way grandmas and aunts and uncles can provide childcare, and make it easier to use programs like these to help cover costs.

I am not trying to take away from certified childcare facilities, I am just trying to have a different way of thinking about the problem of lack of spaces.

Given southwest Wisconsin’s rich agricultural history, is there anything specific you would be working on that would impact farmers or food processing?

I’m on the board of the Community Kitchen Coop, which includes farmers and workers providing meals to community members. This is something we could replicate elsewhere, like with schools.

We have many programs on the state level - buy local, eat local - and I want to see those expanded, as I think they are underutilized.

We are seeing from tight budgets that some local schools have reduced the staff in their school lunch programs, using more prepackaged meals, which means more food items coming from outside the area.

There are programs elsewhere that show that if you take locally-produced food, and serve it in the community it is produced, there are positive impacts. There is less waste, and there can be a cycle there, as food waste from these programs can be picked back up, put into compost and then used as fertilizer.

I just feel local farmers are underutilized as a local source.

What initiative, idea, or plan would you make sure is debated, and hopefully acted upon this next term?

I would like to look at how to restructure funding for special education, and mental health issues in our schools, as well as look for incentives to help farmers take advantage of cooperative models for solar or wind power projects.

I was a special ed teacher for more than 25 years, so I saw how the decreases in special ed affected our schools. The schools tried their best, but these reductions led to districts hiring more aides than teachers, which then puts the teachers in supervisory roles.

 Special education is required by state and federal governments, and school districts have to create a plan on how they are going to provide the mandated services. You have these programs in place, but the state is only covering 30 percent, that puts a burden on those school districts. They have been innovative, but still.

What put school put in a bind these are state and federal law mandating that

Our budgets reflect our priorities, and Howard Marklein have been the cochair of the finance committee. He finds funding for other things in that post, but when it comes to education funding, we still haven’t caught up.

I want to focus on mental health services in schools for students. As an example, in the smaller districts we have in southwest Wisconsin, we have one counselor for k-12. You have one counselor dealing with from kindergartners to trying to prepare your seniors for college. That is a long range of issues to cover, and it is difficult to do it with one staff person.

In addition, we have a lack of emergency services in this area, counseling services. A counselor may make a referral, but people may have to wait way longer than the situation would allow.

On energy projects, I am a great fan of rural electrification. How that came about, how cooperatives were created to serve these local needs. We need to figure out ways to help farmers and other local land owners take advantage, and do what is best for the land.

If a farmer sees a need for something like a wind tower, and not these massive blades, but the spinning columns, they can. Or, I was driving past this farm with several pole buildings - having initiatives where they could install solar on those roofs. 

We have programs that subsidizing large power companies, what I would like are initiatives at DATCAP for the individual.