Robin Vos takes over as Assembly Speaker
State Assembly Speaker-elect Robin Vos sits down with reporter Zac Schultz to recap the 2012 election results and look ahead to the next legislative session.
Robin Vos: I think it was a minor factor. Let's just take one example of Howard Marklein. He is a phenomenal candidate. He won in 2010 in a very competitive seat. He won in 2012 in a very competitive seat. His district changed, but in reality, he won 52-48 in a district that I think Barack Obama carried by 20 points. So there's an example of the quality of candidate that we have, somebody who is hard working, who is tenacious, who goes door to door and connects with the district. It's why assembly Republicans have always done well. We campaign the old fashioned way, one person at a time. And I think Democrats and Republicans appreciate that. Zac Schultz: A lot of people making a big deal about the amount of percentage of vote that the Democratic assembly candidates got, versus the much smaller percentage of seats that they managed to win. They're saying redistricting has skewed that. Robin Vos: No, because remember ,that's a false number, because we did not have candidates in 20 or 23 seats. So if you add up the number that Republicans got, we only had races in maybe 70 of the 99 seats. They had a candidate in 95 or 96 of the 99 seats. So that is a totally false number. What really matters is the candidates who got numbers in each district. And I am proud that we have 60 Republicans, one of our strongest majorities in the past several decades, and we're going to do good things with that. Zac Schultz: What's your opinion on what the state should do under the federal health care exchanges? Robin Vos: In my opinion, we should set up– let the federal government decide to do it on their own. I am very fearful that if we set up some sort of state-based exchange, just like what happened with Medicaid or foodshare, or all of the programs that were a federal idea, that were passed onto states to administer, it began with the feds picking up most of the cost and it ends up now with the state of Wisconsin picking up a large share of the burden. I do not think that Obamacare, which is going to be expensive, inefficient and probably highly cumbersome for many people all across the country, why would we want to have state taxpayers on the hook for a bad idea. Zac Schultz: A recent news report showed nine Republicans, including eight members of the assembly, support a series of Tea Party bills, one of which called for arresting federal employees who attempted to set up an exchange in Wisconsin. What do you think of that proposal, and some of these bills that are being passed in other states, to make it more difficult for the federal government to set up an exchange? Robin Vos: Well, first of all, there is no proposal to do what that questionnaire suggested. I think it's just a simple situation where you should never give a one-word answer to a one-sentence question. Many times there are nuances you don't quite understand. So we are not going to pass a law that says that any federal official who sets up an exchange is going to be arrested. I would say that I still disagree with Obamacare. I think it’s bad for our government and for our society. But the law of the land is the law of the land. The only question we have as Wisconsinites, is it going to be a federal exchange or a state-run exchange. I have a chance to say no state exchange, and that’s what I hope we do. Zac Schultz: In talking about bills like that and proposals, whether it come from the legislature or outside, we've heard Governor Walker call for more bipartisan approach. We've even heard him say he doesn't want some controversial bills, like right-to-work legislation, to come to his desk. Is it your job as assembly speaker to prevent some of those bills from coming to the floor for a vote, even if your own members want one. Robin Vos: Well, first of all, we'll have a discussion in our caucus. I'm not a dictator. I'm elected by my peers to be their leader, which means I will hopefully be able to gather the votes to do things that are good for our state, hopefully from Democrats and Republicans. So my goal is never to bring something that's controversial just for the sake of bringing controversial ideas to the floor. What I would say, there's a controversial idea that's going to move Wisconsin forward, I'm not going to fear bringing that forward. But at the same time, I'm not looking for it either. So if there are good ideas, Democrats, Republicans, we’re going to bring those forward, we’re going to have a vigorous debate. But Governor Walker is right, it's not our goal to try to create some kind of controversy. But we're going to tackle problems head on. For too long elected officials have kicked the can down the road. We didn’t do that last time, and we’re not going to do it in the future. Zac Schultz: And speaking of bipartisan approach, when Republicans learned that the senate Dems had elected Chris Larson as the minority leader, we heard that there were some laughs, and that you said, “Sometimes god gives you a gift.” What did you mean by that? Robin Vos: Well, I just said it was politics, that you know, he lives close to where I do. Maybe we can each drive together. That's one of the things that we could talk about. I have no doubt whatsoever that the senate Democrats picked the person they thought was their best leader. It surprised me, to be quite honest. Jon Erpenbach is a long-time leader in our state. A Democrat who has relationships with people in both parties. I assumed he would be the natural leader. Having somebody who is not as well connected, somebody who is probably more ideological, wouldn't be a natural choice that I would have chosen. But that's their decision. I'll live with the consequences of whatever they want. Zac Schultz: Assembly speaker-elect, Robin Vos. Thanks for your time. Robin Vos: Thanks so much. Appreciate it, too.