ROCHESTER — Entering his seventh term, Robin Vos will lead a state Assembly with its highest number of Republicans in generations.
But next year in the Legislature promises to be filled with tough issues, including how to fund roads and education. Vos, R-Rochester, said he is also looking at Racine County-related measures, like Interstate 94 construction.
Vos spoke to The Journal Times about the next legislative session, the election, his own future and more.
What are your top priorities in the next legislative session?
The most important thing the Legislature does is pass a balanced budget. So that is what we will spend much of the first six months discussing.
As part of that balanced budget, I have a few priorities. I would like to continue to increase our investment in education, especially public schools and universities. I would like to find a long-term solution for funding road repairs and maintenance. And I would like to make sure that we continue to make our state a place where families can find good-paying jobs that provide benefits.
Could you foresee legislation specific to Racine County coming forward?
There are some ideas that I’d like to work on. One would be to look at the trail that has been proposed going from Union Grove-Dover connecting to Burlington and over to Racine (called the Rails to Trails project). That has had a lot of community support. I’d like to work on a bipartisan basis to help make that happen.
I would like to make sure we finish I-94 reconstruction, so that as jobs continue to flee Illinois, that they relocate to Racine County as much as they have been to Kenosha County.
I’d like to continue to work with local governments to make sure they are able to provide the services that they need. One example would be, I know that in Dover, they have needs as far as the amount of services required at the Southern Wisconsin Center. That’s a special place in my heart, to take care of our veterans and those people who have disabilities.
I would lastly say to make sure I focus on what I promised, which is to keep good schools funded in Racine County. As many of our schools are in steady or declining enrollment, we have to continue to look at our education system, which really has been based on funding pupils. If we are in declining enrollment, that’s going to cause problems in the long run, not just in Racine County but statewide.
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Why were Republicans so successful in the election, especially in Wisconsin, where GOP legislative majorities increased and Donald Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to win since 1984?
My job as speaker is to go out and recruit high-quality, dedicated people who want to become public servants. I think that we have done a good job finding people in various stages of their life to take some time out of their private-sector career to become a public servant.
Secondarily, I think we have a really good message. We make promises when we run for election and then we work like crazy to fulfill them. We have taken hard votes to reform the way government operates. We have stuck to our conservative principles. All at the same time, (we are) investing in our priorities which is health care for the poor, public schools and trying to make sure we have a good quality of life.
Would you be interested in running for higher office in the future?
I don’t think so. I’ll be really honest with you: I love the fact that I get to find that balance — which is not always easy — between having a successful business and private career and being a full-time public servant. I feel like I have the very best job I can ask for, and I try as hard as I can to work at it.
I love being speaker because it allows me to be a key player in helping to make Wisconsin prosperous, but I also don’t have to worry about being driven around by the State Patrol. I can take care of myself and work at my factory.
On a lighter note: what’s wrong with the Packers?
I gotta tell you, I’m a little bit disappointed. It seems like they don’t have the same level of passion they’ve had in the past. Aaron Rodgers gets the ball downfield and a lot of the guys don’t make the play at the crucial time.
What are you most thankful for this year?
I am lucky that I have both of my parents still with me, who I love very much and I get to see on a regular basis. I have a niece and a nephew and my sibling who lives close to me. So I’m most thankful for my family.
I am second-most thankful for what is like a second family in Madison, which is the staff that I get to work with and the people that I serve with in the Capitol.