Practical solutions, positive results needed, says Petryk
Name: Warren Petryk
Hometown: Town of Pleasant Valley, Eau Claire County
Education: Graduate Boyceville High School; Bachelor of Arts in philosophy, minor in music, UW-Eau Claire (1978)
Professional background: Small business owner, performer and co-founder of "The Memories," an entertainment group, since 1972; community relations coordinator for United Cerebral Palsy of West Central Wisconsin, 15 years
Previous elected office: Wisconsin Assembly since 2010
Campaign website: www.warrenpetryk4assembly.com
Warren Petryk is a musician and an entertainer--a communicator who believes he has found his calling in government.
Petryk said he has always focused on practical solutions and positive results, goals he learned from his dad, a shop teacher who served as mayor of Boyceville for one term.
"He taught me so much about getting people to sit down, look at a situation and get things done," said Petryk. "It's in my blood. I feel like I've been called to this job."
He cites as a qualification his experience as a private businessman--he helped found "The Memories," an entertainment group, 40 years ago and still manages it.
He also worked for 15 years as community relations coordinator for United Cerebral Palsy of West Central Wisconsin.
"I can bring a practicality to the job (of legislator) along with my colleagues who are business owners ...who have had to sign the front of a paycheck," said Petryk.
He said the state needs to reform how it does business so it's not spending more than it takes in.
"For the state to live within its means is a new concept," said Petryk, adding, though, that it should be simple common sense.
The task now is "how to move the state forward in a responsible fashion," said Petryk, adding the current legislature and administration have already started that process.
"We've gotten our fiscal house in order," he said of the last legislative session. "We acted responsibly."
For the second year in a row, Wisconsin state government has been able to add money to its "rainy day" fund, noted Petryk. With a surplus of $342 million in its general account, the administration put $109 million into the fund.
Petryk said his first priority is to be responsible to his constituents, the citizens, the taxpayers, and that means the state must apply lean principles in a weak economy.
"All we can do is take the revenue that comes in and spread it around responsibly," he said.
As for the future, Petryk said emphatically, "I will not support tax increases or fee increases of any kind."
When he sought election two years ago, Wisconsin was seeing massive job losses in the private sector and state government had a $3.6 million budget hole, said Petryk.
"I ran because of a failed management system and a failed legislature," said Petryk. "I got fed up."
He said much of the deficit was because of rising health care expenditures, partly caused by fraud and inefficiency that needed to be dealt with.
"We've already started that," said Petryk, referring to the Governor's Commission on Waste, Fraud and Abuse.
Two years ago when the governor and legislature tackled the deficit and looked at budget cuts, there were fears state jobs would be cut, putting more people out of work, said Petryk.
"Not a state worker got laid off," he said. "It didn't happen. The sky didn't fall."
He added, "It was never about making them enemies or victims."
Petryk said his top priority now is creating jobs in the private sector and that means building a better business climate.
In 2010, CEO Magazine listed Wisconsin 42nd in its Best State for Business rankings. By last year, the ranking was 24th and, by May of this year, it had risen to 20th.
"I think, within the next 2-3 years, we could be No. 10," Petryk predicted.
The Tax Foundation and Beacon Hill Institute have also given Wisconsin positive marks for being "a great place to invest," he said.
"This is all great news, and I just embrace it," said Petryk, adding such reports boost the confidence of state leaders and of its businesses.
He also promised to fight higher taxes and "obtuse" regulations.
"All of these things eat at the profit line," he said.
When businesses become more profitable, they are freer with spending, both on expansion and on charitable giving, which leads to greater satisfaction for both them and the community, said Petryk, who belongs to four local chambers of commerce.
"Profit is not a four-letter word," he said.
Petryk also highlighted the need to strengthen agriculture, education and human services.
"We have to keep the safety net strong," he said, adding it's also necessary to see the net is not used by those who don't need it.
"Actually that's been working very well," he said, noting fraud and waste elimination efforts have already saved $250 million a year for BadgerCare and SeniorCare.
"We're getting to the bottom of a lot of problems that have developed over the years," said Petryk.
Republican lawmakers took a lot of heat over Act 10, the law that repealed most collective bargaining for local and school employees and is now being challenged in court.
"I did it out of respect to the local governments," said Petryk of his support for Act. 10. He said school, town, village and city administrators told him they had control over only 15 percent of their budgets and wanted more say in setting their budgets.
He paraphrased what administrators said, "I'm told what 85 percent of my budget will be."
Civil service rules protect every employee, and workers can still choose to belong to a union, said Petryk, arguing government employees have many protections.
But, he said, he understands their concern: "I think it's a big change for them."
As time goes on, state and local employees, including teachers, will see opportunities for personal and professional growth as more merit pay programs develop, said Petryk.
Over half of the state's budget goes to education, "our future, our children," he said, adding, "I'm really optimistic that education is going to be better than ever in our state."
While citizens can't depend on government for everything, they should be able to depend on it to keep the infrastructure sound, insisted Petryk.
When money is placed in a segregated transportation fund, it should be spent on transportation needs and not raided for other uses as previous administrations have done, he said.
"We like our good roads in Wisconsin and need to pay for that," said Petryk.