Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Debate rewind: A look at our past recall-related ratings

Democrat Tom Barrett is challenging Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the June 5, 2012 recall election. This photo is from their second and final debate.
Democrat Tom Barrett is challenging Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the June 5, 2012 recall election. This photo is from their second and final debate.

Much of the back-and-forth between Democratic challenger Tom Barrett and Republican Gov. Scott Walker in Thursday night’s debate sounded familiar to PolitiFact Wisconsin, whether it was on schools, jobs, budget cuts or collective bargaining.

Here’s a look at some of the claims and counter claims based on our past ratings.

Schools

Barrett claimed that Walker’s cuts in state aid to local schools, which tallied about $800 million, were the biggest in state history. We rated that True.

Walker responded by saying that school districts had saved tens of millions of dollars on health insurance costs due to his collective bargaining reforms. We haven’t checked the whole amount, but we confirmed that many districts got significant savings because under Walker’s law they got new freedom to negotiate better deals with insurance companies.

Barrett said Walker’s school budget reforms were considered a failure by parents who see class size increases because 70% of districts cut teachers. That’s close to the 63% we found in an item on school staffing.

Walker told the audience Barrett had saved $25 million for the city of Milwaukee’s budget using Walker’s health insurance reforms under the union curbs. We rated an identical claim by Wisconsin Club for Growth as Mostly True.

Tax cuts

Barrett complained that Walker favors the rich with his tax cut policies. He said Walker cut the Homestead Tax Credit and enacted $2.3 billion in tax cuts mainly for the wealthy and corporations.

Those claims square with our earlier findings, though it’s important to note the $2.3 billion is over 10 years.

Walker said he helped small businesses by eliminating the state tax on Health Savings Accounts. We rated that Promise Kept on the Walk-O-Meter.

Jobs

Walker hit Barrett for rising unemployment in Milwaukee -- up 28%. The Republican Governors Association got the numbers right when it said unemployment was up 27 percent during Barrett’s time, but put too much of the blame on the mayor; we rated the claim Half True.

Barrett stayed with his claim that under Walker, Wisconsin had lost more jobs in a year than any other state. We gave Barrett a Half True, saying the numbers were accurately cited from the most recent federal report at the time, but put too much blame on Walker.

We rated Mostly False the governor’s recent claim that -- based in part on the raw survey data he released -- he deserved credit for an increase of 33,200 jobs since he took office. We noted the figure came by mixing different data sets and said Walker overstated how much a governor’s policies can influence economic trends.

State officials say federal officials have confirmed the state’s numbers, but that will not be official until late June.