Jaynes: “End the domination of giant agribusinesses”

Josefine Jaynes of Readstown is one of two candidates running in the Democratic primary in the 96th District, which covers all of Crawford County, the southern half of Monroe County and most of Vernon County (click here for a map of the district). The primary takes place Tuesday, August 11. Absentee ballots can be requested here.

We interviewed Josefine recently to get her input on some of the important issues facing Wisconsin and the nation (we’ve also requested an interview with her primary opponent Tucker Gretebeck). The winner of the Democratic primary will face state Rep. Loren Oldenburg, R-Viroqua, in the November general election.

The Covid crisis has had a devastating effect on working class people, with unemployment rates at record levels. Yet we have seen the rich in our state see their wealth grow at a record pace. What would you propose to tackle runaway economic inequality in Wisconsin? For example, would you support raising taxes on the wealthiest residents of our state?

The problem of income disparity is very complex and it has only been exacerbated by COVID-19. Things that could be done in my district to help level the playing field would be to address the lack of available workforce housing and work to incentivize investments in housing and small businesses.  Also working to address the desperate need for quality daycare which disproportionately affects low-income residents. 

I fear that we have only begun to see the tip of the iceberg regarding the economic fallout from this pandemic. We need to be seriously looking at longterm ideas similar to the employment and public works programs that the Roosevelt administration launched to fight the Depression.  We can start with innovative programs like a healthcare corps that works specifically with COVID response and could employ healthcare workers who are currently unemployed or recently graduated.  We could also look at initiating a work program to tackle our failing infrastructure.

With jobs evaporating over the past several months, many thousands of Wisconsinites have seen their employer-provided healthcare disappear. Would you support Governor Ever’s “BadgerCare for All” plan? Do you believe there is a place for private or for-profit insurance in a post-Covid Wisconsin? 

I will work with Governor Evers and the Legislature to make healthcare available for all residents of our state. Already this far into COVID we have a record number of people unemployed and losing their employer-based insurance, requiring them to go uninsured or apply for a government insurance program.  I feel certain that when we reach the other side of COVID we will all have a much better appreciation for the idea of universal healthcare.

Your district is primarily rural, with a long agricultural tradition. Yet we have seen the small family farm largely disappear from the landscape. What needs to be done to support rural communities? Do you support a moratorium on CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations)?

When my mom was in high school almost 90% of her classmates were living on small family farms.  When I graduated from the same school thirty some years later none of my classmates lived on a working family farm.  The makeup of our district is changing.  Many family farms in my district have come up with innovative ideas in order to survive.  We’re seeing more niche farming; pasture grazed beef or hogs, vegetables, hazelnuts, grapes, blueberries are some examples. Agriculture tourism is also something that has developed.  I disagree with Secretary Sonny Perdue and his “go big or go home” ideas.  

We need to end the domination of giant agribusinesses over our farm economy in order for family farms to be able to compete. CAFOs need to be carefully regulated as they can pose increased environmental and health problems for neighboring properties and communities especially in the Driftless Region of our district.  Water quality is a top concern for me because for the health of all residents as well as to preserve the sporting and recreation tourism that is vital to the 96th District.  Strong farm policy is vital, but that it’s also necessary to advocate for small manufacturing, small business, and infrastructure improvement

Wisconsin has preemption laws that prevent local municipalities from passing ordinances stricter than state-level law. For example, a city is not allowed to raise the minimum wage above the state level. Lately in your district we have seen cell towers raised in rural areas, despite significant community opposition. What is your position on these preemption laws? Should local communities have more control?

I strongly believe in local government. I believe that on county and village levels we are able to work in a less partisan fashion and get things done. I think that we need to look at each specific issue when it comes to preemption laws. We need to work to ensure our local governments remain strong because at the end of the day they are the ones who best understand the particular issues in their communities.

What about the state of public education in Wisconsin? Should higher education (university, technical college, apprenticeships) be tuition-free for students? Do you oppose the use of public funds for charter and private schools?

I believe that public funds should be used to fund our public schools. After receiving a higher education, young people enter our communities saddled with outrageous debt rendering them unable to invest in our communities. We need to look at restructuring student loans to ensure that people entering the workforce are able to establish themselves in our communities.

The Wisconsin GOP has been ruthlessly effective the last decade, openly engaging in gerrymandering and other voter suppression measures. For example, in 2018 Rep. Oldenburg had hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into his campaign from outside sources. What does the Democratic Party need to do to turn back the GOP at the state level, and what is your campaign’s plan to overcome the tide of money that will be spent against you?

I am aware of the dark money that will be poured into my opponent’s campaign. I witnessed what occurred last election cycle against Paul Buhr and was appalled that out of state interests were attempting to buy our local elections. I have made a commitment in this campaign to not accept PAC money. I am aware that this may put me at a disadvantage, but I believe that voters are tired of elections being bought. I encourage voters to research who is financing the campaigns of the candidates on their ballot. That is public information that can be found through the Wisconsin Ethics Commission.

Interview by Evan Dvorsak. Please consider supporting our journalism by making a donation here. Email questions to lacrosseindependent@gmail.com.

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