Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidates sound off on Ryan budget plan

MILWAUKEE -- The race for Wisconsin's open U.S. Senate seat has largely been overshadowed by the recall of Governor Scott Walker. However, the candidates are tackling some serious issues, and Wednesday, candidates Tommy Thompson and Jeff Fitzgerald were in Milwaukee.

Wednesday, the discussion was about the debt and deficit.

Republican Congressman Paul Ryan is the chairman of the House Budget Committee, and unveiled his spending plan for the next 10 years. Ryan's plan would reshape Medicare into a system of private insurance plans, cut social programs for the poor, placing time limits and work requirements on welfare programs, and simplify the tax code. Ryan started the budget debate, and Wednesday, Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidates joined it.

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald is one candidate running for Wisconsin's U.S. Senate seat. He's running on the strength of his experience balancing the state budget. "The problems we faced in Wisconsin, I believe, are a microcosm of what's going on nationally. On a national level, it's going to have to deal with entitlement reform, the same way we dealt with collective bargaining reforms in the state of Wisconsin. If we don't do anything, we're going to head off that economic cliff," Fitzgerald said.

The template for doing that is Ryan's new budget plan. Former Governor Tommy Thompson says the next U.S. senator will have to take tough votes to reform programs. "Medicare, you've got to assume, is going broke. Democrats would like to avoid coming to grips with that," Thompson said.

Eric Hovde told FOX6 News over the phone that he agrees with the broad strokes of the Ryan plan and he sees debt and deficit reduction as the critical campaign issues. "We're going to head into a financial collapse if we don't change and change rapidly," Hovde said.

In statement, Mark Neumann said: "Congressman Paul Ryan once again has the courage to put forth a detailed proposal to cut government spending. I'd like to know where is Tammy Baldwin's plan? She has no plan except to spend more money and raise taxes. That's no plan," Neumann said.

U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin of Madison is the only Democrat in the race for Wisconsin's U.S. Senate seat. She is in Washington, where Congress is in session. Her spokesman says the Ryan plan takes the country in the wrong direction. "It is a plan that ends Medicare as we know it for future generations. It's a plan that makes a mockery of tax fairness, when middle class families are struggling and in the race for U.S. Senate, people have to ask themselves, 'who's side are these guys really on?'" Phil Walzak said.