Felzkowski: Northwoods “not getting forgotten” would be key priority in State Senate
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor
TOMAHAWK – In an interview with the Tomahawk Leader on Wednesday, March 4, 35th Assembly District Representative and candidate for Wisconsin’s 12th Senate District Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) discussed her decision to launch her Senate bid and her priorities if she were to be elected.
Currently, Felzkowski does not have a challenger in the August election.
Felzkowski said she hadn’t considered a State Senate bid until the 12th District’s current seat holder, Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua), approached her about it. Tiffany is currently running to represent Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District.
After discussing the opportunity with her staff and speaking to a few other senators about their experiences, she decided to run. She announced her candidacy on March 2 and has since received an endorsement from Tiffany.
Priorities if elected
Overall, Felzkowski’s focuses if elected to the Senate would be the same as they have been in the Assembly. Making sure the Northwoods isn’t “forgotten compared to Madison and Milwaukee” is among her top priorities, she said.
“There are more legislators down there, so we have to be a louder, stronger voice.”
Other priorities Felzkowski would take into the State Senate would be “holding the line on regulation for all our small businesses,” making sure northern Wisconsin gets its “fair share” of education and transportation funds, and trying to overcome the area’s healthcare challenges. She also aims to address the area’s declining population of young people, noting that reversing the trend of declining enrollment in area schools would help them receive more funding.
“In order to have a strong workforce and have families move up here, we need to make sure we have the healthcare and education to draw them to the Northwoods,” she stated.
Felzkowski also said she will continue to work to bring “good and affordable” broadband internet to the area.
Second amendment sanctuaries, stagnant wages, wealth inequality
Felzkowski said she supports the efforts of local communities declaring themselves second amendment sanctuaries. The City of Merrill recently became a second amendment sanctuary. A similar effort failed at the county level earlier this year.
“I am a huge supporter of the Second Amendment,” she stated. “(Second amendment sanctuary communities) can’t change state or federal law, but I think it sends a strong message to lawmakers, both at the state and federal level, that this is an important issue to us. I think any community or area that passes it is telling them, ‘If you pass red flag laws, we’re not going to accept that.’”
With statistics showing that Wisconsin isn’t immune the nation’s decades-long trend of stagnant wages and growing wealth inequality, Felzkowski said she believes that the trend is slowly reversing itself in the state, as gross domestic product (GDP) is around 3% to 4% and demand for employment is increasing.
“You can set wages at whatever, but the ultimate factor is demand,” she stated. “You can’t pay somebody $15 dollars an hour anymore. You’re not going to get them. You’re seeing wages for truck driving and construction starting at $20, $24 an hour. The demand for those people is what’s really going to skyrocket.”
Current state of implementing premier resort area tax (PRAT) in Tomahawk
In Aug. 2019, Felzkowski and two other representatives introduced a bill co-sponsored by Tiffany that would authorize the City of Tomahawk, the Town of Minocqua and the City of Sturgeon Bay to become premier resort areas, which would ultimately allow the municipalities to implement a 0.5% premier resort area tax (PRAT). 69% of Tomahawk residents supported a PRAT in a 2018 advisory resolution.
Felzkowski said she supports the implementation of a PRAT because “the local people vote to tax themselves.”
“To me, that’s ultimate control,” she stated. “You are saying, ‘Yes, I want this.’”
The bill ended up dying in the Assembly Ways and Means committee due to leadership choosing not to move it forward. In explaining why this happened, Felzkowski said, “We have a whole segment (of legislators) that hate PRATs.”
“It’s a vote for a tax, and there are just certain people that will never vote for a tax,” she said.
A Senate bill with the same goal, introduced by Tiffany and co-sponsored by Felzkowski and several other representatives, suffered a similar fate in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions.
Gearing up for campaign
Felzkowski said she likes her chances heading into the election later this year.
“When I first ran in 2012, this was a 50/50 seat,” she said. “I think I got around 54%, 55% of the vote. The last time, I got around 62%. Our district has gone from very blue, to purple, to a pretty red district. So I feel pretty good about that.”
She acknowledged that there is a lot of work to be done, however, including knocking on doors throughout the district.
“I’ll go through a couple pairs of tennis shoes this summer,” she said.