Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Rep. Mark Pocan

Each week, The Badger Herald editorial board will sit down with an individual who impacts the lives of students. This week, the editorial board spoke with Rep. Mark Pocan from Wisconsin’s District 78. Rep. Pocan is a graduate of UW-Madison and represents most of the isthmus, including The Badger Herald and many other students. Here are excerpts from that discussion.

The Badger Herald: Tell us a little about yourself.

Rep. Mark Pocan: This is my second term in the Assembly. When Tammy Baldwin was elected to Congress, I got elected to her Assembly seat. I’m the ranking Democrat on the environmental committee, serve on the corrections and courts committee, where I’ve done a lot of work lately with the Supermax prison, and I also serve on the campaigns and elections committee and the ways and means committee. I’m also the chief whip for the Democrats.

BH: What do you think about the proposed $51 million cut in the UW System budget?

MP: Our concern is we are finally catching up to put money back into the UW System, especially UW-Madison. I would hate to see us take a step backward when we’re still doing catch-up. We also have to be cautious about what this means to tuition. These are our priorities: one, don’t diminish the quality; two, let’s make sure this doesn’t fall on the backs of students and faculty. We’re also trying to tie financial aid to an increase in tuition. That way, people that most need the help can get it.

As a bigger issue, I’ve long been a critic of how the Board of Regents is set up. Basically, it’s set up so that the governor’s contributors–mainly older, rich white men–are the people who govern the Board of Regents, and most of them would never know what it’s like to pay tuition. So when they talk about, “Oh, we can’t have more than a 10 percent increase in tuition,” it’s ridiculous. Can you imagine what would happen if we had a 10 percent increase in taxes? People would be in the streets. Yet they say that about tuition. Far better would be a fully elected Board of Regents with 100 percent public financing so that anyone could run. We would also have four students from across the state, which would be elected by students.

BH: What do you think about the non-traditional student regent bill that just passed the Senate?


MP: I saw your editorial against that, but I think it’s a good first step. It passed the Senate on a voice vote, and hopefully it will get somewhere in the Assembly. This isn’t the perfect alternative, but if it’s the alternative that will get another student voice on there and make the Board of Regents more diverse and representative, then it’s good. I think the reason it’s a non-traditional student is because that’s how you got bi-partisan support of the bill.

BH: What do you think about lowering the drinking age?

MP: I support that. I don’t know why you can have all these other prohibitions tied to 18–and then you can’t drink until you’re 21. What we do is push people to have parties where you hide from the cops, and it’s ridiculous. The problem is, we’re being held hostage by the federal government for $20 million or so, but I really think we could raise the money from the additional tax revenues generated by those drinking who are 18 to 20.

BH: So is the chance of this happening zero or extremely small?

MP: Zero. It’s tough to turn down $20 million.

BH: What are your big issues?

MP: There are five things I’ve been working on this session. One is the Supermax issue and corrections reform. The second one would be emergency contraceptive legislation. Third would be domestic partner legislation and opening the state emergency pool. Fourth is a new bill we just put out–it’s probably going to be one of the hottest environmental issues next session–a pollutant bill removing the grandfather clause for old power utilities. Finally, campaign-finance reform in general. I have a bill that would provide 100 percent public financing which would remove all special interest influence.

BH: Whom are you looking to support for the Democratic nomination for governor?

MP: I haven’t decided yet–I said I’d wait until about March to make a decision. I think this is one of the most talented crop of candidates we’ve put up in 20 years. I think they smell blood in the water–it says something about Scott McCallum’s governing. I want to make sure a strong progressive wins the primary.

BH: Which of the candidates is the most progressive?

MP: I think Tom Barret and Kathleen Falk are the most progressive.

BH: Do you think it will be a bloody primary?

MP: I hope not–I think people realize that because of how weak McCallum is, whoever wins the primary will likely be the next governor. I don’t know how, given McCallum’s record–especially this budget–how he is going to survive. Everything is on the primary. McCallum doesn’t know what it’s like to be governor, and he’s had a year now–the first couple months were fine, but he’s had a year. Sorry, his time is up–it’s time to start packing.

BH: What are your ambitions?

MP: I’d like to see us get a majority so we could pass bills instead of stop bad ones. If Fred Risser were to leave, I might try to move over to the Senate. My personal goal is to move the state to the left, however that is done.

BH: Do you have any interest in returning to the local level and running for mayor?

MP: We’ve turned down that. I’ve seen how much I’ve been able to do in three years, and it’s hard to get emotionally charged about trash collection and street clean up. I hope we can find a good candidate. I like Sue Bauman, but quite honestly, she’s not just had a year like Scott McCallum has but she’s had about six years to govern and she hasn’t quite figured it out.

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