Digging into the claims in new Walker ad
By Dave Umhoefer
Published on Friday, March 9th, 2012 at 9:00 a.m.
Gov. Scott Walker has a new campaign TV ad, "Promises Kept," but much of the ground it covers is familiar to PolitiFact Wisconsin readers.
The ad is the first since Walker declined to challenge recall petitions against him. Those petitions must be reviewed by the Government Accountability Board, and already there are Democrats who say they will run against him -- and some others who are considering it.
In the ad, Walker introduces himself and speaks directly to viewers while leaning forward on a black couch. Over his shoulder, various words are used to drive home his point.
Let’s take a look at the ad from the top, relying mostly on our past Truth-O-Meter ratings and some new reporting:
Claim: "In the three years before I was elected, Wisconsin lost 150,000 jobs."
This is accurate based on official figures at the time of the ad. There are a couple important notes, though.
One: the trend was not three straight years of losses.
In 2008 and 2009, amid and immediately after the Great Recession, net job losses totalled 164,000, a drop of 5.7 percent. But in 2010, the year before Walker took office, the state’s economy slowly began adding jobs (+12,000 jobs, up 0.4 percent) under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.
By comparison, in 2011, Walker’s first year, 3,200 overall jobs were added (+ 0.1 percent).
That’s all according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics figures at the time Walker released his ad.
Revised employment figures for 2010 and 2011 came out on March 8, after the ad was up.
They change a lot of the relevant math. They show Wisconsin actually lost 21,000 public and private jobs in Walker’s first year.
For the comparison in his ad, Walker uses figures that include government jobs as well as private-sector employment. By contrast, for his promise to create 250,000 jobs in four years, Walker uses only private sector tallies.
Looking at private sector only, and the figures available when Walker did his ad, Wisconsin added 13,500 jobs in Walker’s first year, with gains the first six months and losses the last six.
But the revised figures show a different trend: the loss of 9,700 private sector jobs in 2011.
Claim: "We promised to help employers create jobs. Today, Wisconsin's unemployment rate, it's the lowest it's been since 2008."
Walker’s centerpiece campaign promise was on creating more jobs, not the unemployment rate -- two distinct measurements.
But Walker is correct that December 2011’s unemployment rate of 7.0 percent was the lowest in three years. The rate peaked at 9.2 percent in mid-2009 and early 2010 before starting to fall, and was at 7.7 percent when Walker took office in January 2011.
January 2012 figures released March 8 put the latest unemployment figure at 6.9 percent.
Claim: "We kept our promise to balance the budget without raising taxes, and without massive layoffs, protecting jobs, and eliminating a $3.6 billion deficit."
In 2011, we gave Walker a Promise Broken on his pledge to "oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes."
In his first budget, Walker proposed tax increases in the form of reduced tax credits for low-income homeowners and renters, and low-income working families. In the budget he signed, the increases totaled about $70 million over two years, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
Walker notes that his tax cuts totaled more than those increases in the credits.
The governor did, as required by the state constitution, submit and sign a balanced budget. And Walker is, we said in February 2011, on generally solid ground in using $3.6 billion as the size of the deficit he faced going into his first budget.
(As we’ve noted, Walker broke a separate promise to balance the budget by a more stringent method that uses generally accepted accounting principles favored in the private sector.)
Claim: "We promised to hold the line on property taxes, and after years of tax increases, school property taxes actually went down."
Under the tighter caps Walker and Republican lawmakers put in place, statewide property tax levies were basically flat for 2012 (up 0.3 percent), the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance reported. School levies dropped 1 percent, while municipal taxes went up mainly due to borrowing not covered by tightened tax limits.
Claim: "Because public employees now contribute to their health and pension benefits, we were able to put more money back into the classroom, increase funding for health care for our seniors, and keep thousands of firefighters, police officers, and teachers on the job."
We’ll save most of that for another day, but there is an important note:
The first phrase -- "now contribute" -- suggests public employees were not already contributing toward their pension and health benefits before Walker’s budget. In fact, almost all were paying a share of health-insurance premiums. And many already were giving part of their pay to both pension and health -- just not nearly as much as Walker’s budget required.
Most state employees were paying a share of health insurance premiums that was far below the national average, we found in February 2011.
Walker makes one final claim in the 60-second spot (there’s a 30-second version too).
Claim: "We can't go back to the days of billion dollar budget deficits and double digit tax increases. "
Wrapped in his admonition are some factual assertions, about the deficit and tax increases.
Multi-billion deficits heading into a budget year have become common in the last decade, we noted in February 2011. Doyle estimated a $3.2 billion deficit heading into 2003-2005, and at least $5.4 billion heading into 2009-2011 as tax collections sagged with the economy.
In January 2012, we rated Mostly True a Walker claim that Wisconsin Democrats during the previous administration had adopted "double-digit" tax increases on some types of income, services and products.
Transcript of Scott Walker campaign "Promises Kept" TV ad, March 5, 2012
Interview with Ciara Matthews, spokesperson, Walker for Governor campaign, March 6, 2012
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economic statistics, Wisconsin, accessed March 6, 2012
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Unemployment statistics, Wisconsin, accessed March 6, 2012
Scott Walker, State of the State speech transcript, Jan. 25, 2012
PolitiFact Wisconsin, Walk-O-Meter promise on 250,000 jobs, accessed March 6, 2012
PolitiFact Wisconsin, Walk-O-Meter item on property tax freeze promise, July 7, 2011
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "School levies drop statewide, sparking debate," Nov. 15, 2011
Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, press release on statewide property tax estimates, Jan. 13, 2012
PolitiFact Wisconsin, item on health and pension contributions, Feb. 18, 2011
PolitiFact Wisconsin, item on state employee health insurance, Feb. 8, 2011
PolitiFact Wisconsin, item on local government employees’ health care premiums, March 3, 2011
PolitiFact Wisconsin, item on pension benefits, Nov. 25, 2011
PolitiFact Wisconsin, item on Walker claim of double-digit tax increases, Jan. 25, 2012
PolitiFact Wisconsin, item on Scott Walker claim of eliminating $3.6 billion deficit without raising taxes, Jan. 29, 2012
Employee Trust Funds Department, memo on pension contribution increases, Nov. 17, 2010
Researchers: Dave Umhoefer
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