In 2008, Travis Tranel ran for the state Assembly against Rep. Phil Garthwaite (D–Dickeyville, and lost.
In 2010, Tranel ran for the state Assembly against Garthwaite, and won.
Tranel (R–Cuba City) now is the incumbent in the 49th Assembly District, facing Republican David Kuhle of Hazel Green in the primary Aug. 14. The winner of the third race between Tranel and Kuhle faces Democrat Carol Beals of Platteville Nov. 6.
“I’ve always been interested in politics,” said Tranel. “I’ve always been fascinated with the success of America. And I thought in 2008 people had lost hope and lost faith in America. In 2008, even though we lost, I think we were successful in doing that.”
One of the biggest issues in this year’s GOP primary is Act 10, the public employee collective bargaining reforms passed by the Legislature, which led to recall attempts against Gov. Scott Walker and several Republican state senators. Act 10 passed the Legislature despite Tranel’s not voting for it, something Kuhle is bringing up in his campaign.
So why did Tranel vote against Act 10?
“In a nutshell, my idea on Act 10 was to include police and fire” department employees in the collective bargaining reforms, he said. “Had we included them, we could have saved $1 billion. My idea was to take that $1 billion and phase in that employee contribution.”
According to Tranel, enacting Act 10 as it was signed into law meant government employees “instantly” lost $500 to $600 from their take-home pay.
“They had the votes and they didn’t need my vote, and that’s fine,” he said. “The budget repair bill put the mechanism in place to allow local governments to deal with the [state] budget. To say that the budget was an easy vote is an insult to all legislators who voted for it.
“If somebody wants to attack me on Act 10, I can deal with that. But Dave Kuhle has no credibility on Act 10. At the time he agreed with me, and now he says he doesn’t. That’s the problem with this race. It’s not about politics; it’s 100 percent personal.”
With the recall over but the fall elections coming up, Tranel said, “Voter fatigue is at an all-time high. And I don’t think it matters if you’re a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, they’re just tired.”
Despite his vote against Act 10, Tranel hosted a Walker campaign stop at his farm before the June 5 recall election.
“One of my biggest jobs is to be a cheerleader for southwest Wisconsin, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do that,” said Tranel.
Tranel said Walker “now knows that you need both a good product and a good process. The thing I’ve heard over and over again [while campaigning] was that you guys need to grow up and work together.
“I think that as divisive as this has been, I have shown that you can work with one another.”
Tranel favors a proposal authored by Rep. Howard Marklein (R–Spring Green) to require that state finances be balanced on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, not cash. The state requires that all units of government have GAAP-balanced budgets, but state government is only required to have cash-balanced budgets.
Tranel said GAAP accounting “would help instantaneously” to improve the state’s budget picture. “We need to take another stab at that.”
Tranel introduced a constitutional amendment to require the creation of a “rainy-day fund” for state government.
“What past Legislatures have shown is that when times are good, tax revenues are spent,” he said. “I think that’s how you avoid a lot of the animosity we had this past session. I think we have to do a better job planning so we don’t have these sort of things happen.”
With tax revenues up from an improving economy and spending held in check, Tranel said, “It’s going to be nice to start a budget in the black. But we still have problems — we have an aging population; our Medicaid spending is going through the roof. We have a lot of problems to have to solve.”
Now that Walker has won the recall, Tranel said, “I think we’ve got to follow through on our commitment to jobs. He’s like anyone else in the Legislature; we’ve all learned a lot over the past two years.
“We’ve got to be mindful of taxes; we’ve got to be mindful of the fact that businesses are in business to make a profit, and if you absorb all their profits through taxes, they aren’t going to come to Wisconsin.”
Tranel counts as the 2011–12 Legislature’s business-friendly accomplishments passing tort reform, creating incentives for job creation that “if nothing’s done, it doesn’t cost the state a dollar,” and regulation “based on science, not just some bureaucrat sitting in an office in Madison.
“All those things add up to a good job atmosphere, and now that we’ve gotten past the uncertainty that’s going to make a huge difference.”
Tranel believes the Legislature will return to the issue of mining in northern Wisconsin to improve job opportunities. The Assembly passed a bill to change regulations to promote mining, but the bill lost in the Senate, in part because of Sen. Dale Schultz (R–Richland Center) and his opposition to the Assembly bill.
“The Assembly version would have protected the environment, would have created jobs — it would have been sufficient,” said Tranel. “I don’t think that mining needs to be a partisan vote; it’s a bill with a lot of potential.”
Tranel also is working on what’s been called in Madison the “Amish bill” — a proposal to allow counties to license horse-drawn buggies, and to require that buggies be equipped with flashing lights.
The 49th Assembly District has seen drops in school enrollment and population growth less than the statewide average over the past decade.
“The reason you’re seeing declining enrollment in schools and slower population growth in this part of the state is consolidating is becoming the norm in agriculture,” said Tranel, who has a farm in the Town of Hazel Green. “You drive around and you see vacant farmsteads. Ten, twenty years ago, you saw every one of those farms with a mom, dad and kids.
“Government is not going to have all the solutions when it comes to agriculture. A lot of those solutions are going to come from the industry itself. We need to make sure that young farmers have access to affordable capital. … We need to make sure that farmers aren’t overregulated to death.”