Doyle discusses public policy

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Nostalgia and light-hearted humor replaced remorse on Tuesday as Gov. Jim Doyle (D) spoke of his time in office, midterm elections and the future. Hosted by Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy at the Law School, Doyle’s appearance was the latest installment in the “On the Issues” series examining matters of public policy.

Elected as Wisconsin’s attorney general in 1990 and governor in 2002, Doyle has held a state office for 20 years. With one month left in his term, he said addressing affordable healthcare, education and in-progress negotiations are top priorities.

Health care has been a concern to Doyle from the beginning. In his final month, he said he hopes to increase knowledge of an “exchange” that would allow individuals and small businesses to buy healthcare within a private market.

“People recognize that there will be agreement and disagreement on (the health care bill passed in March)” he said. “But both Republicans and Democrats should like the exchange.”

Doyle also commented on the Milwaukee Public School system and improvements made since he was elected governor. He said Wisconsin was 50th in the nation for school breakfast programs when he took office, but now ranks 29th.

Continuing to fund small class sizes, increase money for financial aid and promote access to higher education are also important, he said.

In-progress projects are also on the agenda for his last month in office. Although Governor-elect Scott Walker (R) is urging him to cease negotiations for the high-speed rail, it is illegal to cut off existent good-faith bargaining, he said.

So, what caused him to halt Wisconsin’s high-speed rail project upon Walker’s request?

Gousha reminded him that the federally funded $810 million allotted to the state will most likely be revoked and given to a different state.

“You could have put $300 million into contracts and almost made the project inevitable,” Gousha said. “But instead, North Carolina will most likely get the rail while Wisconsin sits and watches.”

Doyle responded to this stating he could not initiate something as important as high-speed rail only for it to be revoked once Walker takes office.

“Part of me says force the issue, but if you don’t have a governor dedicated to working with the Department of Transportation, it won’t get done the way it really should be,” Doyle said.

He said it is “fiction” that the rail federal funding will be given to another in-state project, as Walker has proposed, and that the “huge operating costs” some say the rail will hold are false.

Doyle also spoke of his future plans and expectations of the midterm election results. He plans on staying active in issues such as healthcare and higher education, but hopes to remove himself from the public eye.

“Getting out of this world is appealing,” he said. “Transitioning to the private sector would allow me to choose things I personally want to do.”

As far as the recent elections went, he said Democrats did as well as expected and encouraged those in the room to remain politically active.

One Law School student and audience member said he worked in politics in the past, but is not sure if he will continue his political career after the recent elections.

“If I’m being completely honest, the fall elections left me incredibly disillusioned,” the student said. “I don’t really know what to think anymore.”

In response to this, Doyle said to take a broader look at the “swing” of politics.

“Two years ago people said the Republican party was about to end,” he said. “Now they’re saying Obama is a one-term president … recognize that party swings come and go.”

Regardless of eagerness to move toward the future, Gov. Doyle summed up his thoughts on his term with one phrase.

“I love this job and it’s sure going to be hard to leave.”

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