By Milwaukee Courier Staff
Will Martin, candidate for Lt. Governor, has unveiled an Empowerment Agenda for revitalizing communities of color. Martin’s Empowerment Agenda focuses on addressing a wide array of the challenges confronting communities of color, including education, small business, housing, public safety, and taxes. The candidate indicated he put forward his proposal after consulting with pastors, small business owners, chamber of commerce leaders, law enforcement officers, and community activists.
In an interview with Martin, the candidate explained, “From the aftermath of COVID-19 to historic inflation to violent crime, communities of color have been particularly hard hit.
The challenges before us will not be overcome without state government playing its part in solving them. I am running for Lt. Governor to be a strong partner and advocate for reinvesting in our people, businesses, and neighborhoods, which too often have been overlooked.”
Highlights of Martin’s Empowerment Agenda include:
Martin proposes allowing parents the freedom to choose the educational option that best fits their children’s needs, learning styles, and interests. Faith- and community-based organizations would be empowered to launch schools that would meet state standards while responding to the unique needs of families in their neighborhoods. Under his proposal, parents would be able to shop for public or private education using a voucher. For each year the educational option they select costs less than the amount of the voucher, parents would be allowed to save the difference in an educational trust fund for their children’s future education at a Wisconsin-based technical college or university. As an example, Wisconsin currently spends an average of $15,000 per student. If a parent selected an option that cost $10,000 per year, the $5,000 difference could be saved in an educational trust fund for that child.
“So many of our parents are struggling just to put food on the table. They want the best for their children, but do not have the money to invest in their futures. My proposal gives parents the opportunity to select the K-12 education they want for their children and helps our young people continue their education after high school,” Martin stated.
The pandemic has had devastating effects for Black- and Brown-owned businesses. An estimated 40% of Black-owned businesses closed permanently as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown. Martin proposes establishing a state fund of $25 million from non-taxpayer-based sources to invest in small business start-ups and recapitalize existing businesses in economically distressed areas. His plan also calls for state government to deposit at least $25 million in Black- and Brown-owned banks in Wisconsin, which would allow such financial institutions to make more loans to support businesses and home mortgages. Currently, state government has not deposited any funds with Black- or Brown-owned banks, such as Columbia Savings & Loan.
“Small businesses are the backbone of Wisconsin’s economy. Losing businesses and the jobs that went with them has been devastating for our communities. Instead of being able to work in the neighborhood, more people have to figure out transportation in order to reach more distant jobs. It is time for the state to step up and support business owners who are ready to grow and create jobs,” remarked Martin.
Residents have experienced double-digit increases in many parts of the state. In Milwaukee, the average rent is up 18% over 2021. In other communities, rents have risen by as much as 146% since last year. Martin says Wisconsin is facing a crisis of housing affordability in both single-family homes and multi-family rentals. The Empowerment Agenda outlines an action plan for state government to address the crisis by opening regional Affordable Housing satellite offices to help families access housing resources. It also proposes financing more affordable housing units that would set rents according to area income and assisting more families in buying and renovating neighborhood homes.
“Every additional dollar that has to go for rent is one less dollar for families to spend on food, prescriptions, clothing, transportation, utilities, and more,” said Martin. “The state can either do more to expand housing solutions, or watch homelessness expand.”
Wisconsin has one of the highest state income tax rates in the nation. The Empowerment Agenda points out that state government has grown by 15% over the last three years, costing taxpayers an additional $11.5 billion. The state continues to own multi-million-dollar properties that are largely empty. The plan proposes to shrink state government in order to lower state tax rates for families and eliminate taxation of retirement income for seniors.
“Families and senior citizens on fixed incomes have had to tighten their belts in the face of record inflation. It is time for state government to eliminate wasteful spending, sell unneeded buildings, and give taxpayers some financial breathing room,” wrote Martin.
Violent crime has risen by nearly 10% according to the most recent statistics available. In 2021, 94% of Milwaukee’s homicide victims were people of color. In two-thirds of the cases, no charges were ever filed against any suspect. Martin’s plan proposes increasing the number of law enforcement officers, expanding community-oriented policing with more officers becoming part of the neighborhood, and recruiting more new police officers from within communities of color.
“The first responsibility of government is to protect its people. Too many are dying while their killers remain on the streets without any consequences. It is time to invest in more officers and an excellent opportunity to expand diversity in law enforcement,” stated Martin.
The primary election will be held on Tuesday, August 9. Unlike the November election when voters can vote for candidates of either party, voters in the primary election must cast their ballot for candidates of only one party.
To learn where your polling place is located, please visit www.myvote.wi.gov.