BLANCHARDVILLE, Wis. — Already versed in the policies and tapped into the social networks that sculpt Wisconsin living, Kriss Marion aims to bring fresh perspective to the corridors of the state Capitol.
As she seeks to unseat a three-term representative of state Assembly District 51, Marion, a Democrat, is airing a laundry list of proposals.
“My highest priority is the health and future of rural communities,” she said. “I go after those priorities with anyone who partners with me.”
Like her Republican opponent, Todd Novak, of Dodgeville, Marion characterizes herself as independent-minded and beholden to the rural communities she serves, not a political party.
She sits on the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors, representing a corner of the county that includes her home of Blanchardville, where she and her husband own a small farm and bed-and-breakfast.
During her tenure, Marion has entered the spotlight, notably when she was accused by the county board chairman of leaking information to news outlets concerning the results of a state groundwater study. The claim was unfounded, as the results already were publicly available.
The episode highlighted her longstanding interest in water quality and advocacy for Lafayette County’s participation in the research.
If elected to state office, Marion has not committed to supporting additional water-quality regulations, stating her opinions will be guided by the recommendations of scientists after the study’s results are released in 2021.
Marion also has positioned herself as a staunch proponent for tax reform.
She believes inequities are hollowing out Main Street, notably the “dark store” loophole — a persistent problem that lawmakers continually discuss but fail to remedy, she said.
The loophole enables big-box stores and retailers that rent their properties to successfully challenge their property assessments, thereby reducing their tax liability. The tax burden, in turn, shifts to property owners of residences and small businesses.
“We know that the Walmarts of the world have made a great amount of profit during the pandemic, and it’s time to ask them to pay their way,” Marion said.
Novak supported bills that would remedy the issue in previous legislative sessions, but Republican leaders did not bring them to the floor for a vote.
To raise additional tax revenue for education, Marion proposed legalizing recreational marijuana and imposing an excise tax, earmarking the proceeds for public schools.
Novak criticized Marion’s approaches for increasing revenue, stating that raising taxes on businesses during an economic recession will have a “trickle-down effect,” to the detriment of employees.
Marion also hopes to boost incentives to the state’s college savings program, create a state farm savings account program and modernize the state’s unemployment system, which is backlogged with claims.
During a U.S. Census year, she also is unnerved at Wisconsin’s extreme partisan gerrymandering.
Both Marion and Novak support the adoption of the model used by the State of Iowa, in which nonpartisan legislative staff draw maps, which are approved by the Legislature.
Novak was the first and only Republican to co-author a bill to that effect upon taking office and has continued to do so in subsequent sessions.
The 2020 election marks Marion’s second campaign for state office. In 2018, she challenged Wisconsin Sen. Howard Marklein for his District 17 seat but lost the race with 31,757 votes to his 37,465.