Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Fact-checking state Democrats

The Wisconsin Democratic Party hopes its 2014 convention builds momentum for the Wisconsin governor's race.
The Wisconsin Democratic Party hopes its 2014 convention builds momentum for the Wisconsin governor's race.

Wisconsin is second in the nation in losing jobs?

Milwaukee is second-highest in the recovery of children from sex trafficking?

In Wisconsin, a woman earns 80 cents for every $1 a man earns?

We’ve fact-checked some striking claims from Wisconsin Democrats in recent weeks. With the state party holding its annual convention June 6 and 7, 2014, in Wisconsin Dells, we decided to collect the latest ones.

We did a similar round-up of our 10 latest factchecks on Wisconsin Republicans ahead of the GOP state convention in May 2014.

The Democrats’ keynote speaker is Madison School Board member and former Trek bicycle executive Mary Burke, the party’s leading candidate for governor in 2014. Her challenger in the primary, state Rep. Brett Hulsey of Madison, has been denied a speaking slot.

Other scheduled speakers include U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore of Milwaukee and David Simas, a senior polling strategist on President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign.

A look at the recent factchecks:

Mary Burke

-- The Wisconsin school voucher program "has no research that shows that it’s going to improve student learning." Mostly True.

Public school students routinely outperformed voucher students on statewide test scores from 2011 to 2014. The main study held up by choice advocates shows only limited instances in which voucher students performed better, and the study couldn't determine whether the voucher schools themselves or other factors were the reason. Burke went too far in saying there is no evidence that vouchers improve student learning, but the evidence is thin.

-- "In Wisconsin, a woman only earns 80 cents for every $1 a man earns." Mostly True.

Burke’s claim was slightly conservative, in that census data put the figure at 78 cents. It was worth noting that the gap is not necessarily due to discrimination -- a conclusion some might have drawn because Burke's statement made reference to pay discrimination.

State Rep. Brett Hulsey

-- Walker "has made Wisconsin second in the nation in losing jobs." False.

Hulsey cherry-picked a report for a single month, but spoke of it as a longer-term trend. What’s more, the data was already outdated at the time, so he was wrong when he said it.

-- Says Burke told reporters she would have "required workers to give up bargained for healthcare and retirement benefits like Gov. Walker." Mostly False.

There was an element of truth here in that Burke did say she backed benefits cuts in the same areas as Walker got, and was confident she could have achieved them. But Hulsey’s phrasing made it sound like Burke backs Walker’s approach. That’s a huge stretch given that she said she would have left collective bargaining intact and tried to negotiate the cost-cutting moves.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin

-- "This generation, on average, is starting their careers, if they’ve been to a four-year college, with just under $30,000 in debt. Half True.

While Baldwin cited a figure from a legitimate source, that data has limitations that were not acknowledged. Notably, about half of the colleges were not included. Additionally, the figure was for 2012 and more recent studies show a more mixed picture and in some cases suggest the level may be decreasing.

-- "The average person who gets the minimum wage in America is 35 years old." Mostly False.

Baldwin’s remarks contained an element of truth about the demographics of minimum-wage workers. But the average age of 35 holds for those who would benefit from a change to $10.10, not the group Baldwin spoke of -- all current minimum-wage workers.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr.

-- Milwaukee has seen an "uptick in violence" since 2010 and "the only period of calm we get is when winter sets in." Mostly True.

Milwaukee’s violent crime rates have roller-coastered in recent years, but Clarke’s observation about the trend since 2010 was on target. His claim of a winter "calm" period was a bit of a stretch, but it’s certainly calmer than the hot days of summer.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore

-- "Milwaukee has the second-highest" number of children recovered from sex trafficking. False.

Pimp prosecutions, FBI crackdowns and a local study have established that child sex trafficking is a serious problem in Milwaukee. But Moore acknowledged she didn’t state her claim accurately. There simply is no comprehensive data available comparing cities on the extent of the problem, nor on the overall number of children who are recovered from the trafficking.

State Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate

-- Welcome to Wisconsin road signs have "always been made in Wisconsin," but Scott Walker "is outsourcing them" to an out-of-state-company and is "paying more money for them." False.

No changes are being made to the large "Wisconsin Welcomes You" signs near the state’s borders. The state did give a sign maintenance contract to a Georgia firm, but businesses -- not state taxpayers -- pay for those small roadway signs and the prices in the contract are not increasing.

State Rep. Chris Taylor of Madison

-- "The (state) Capitol rotunda was actually made to invite the people in and to accommodate protests." True.

While it is a place of business, the Capitol’s nomination for National Historic Landmark makes clear that it was designed to be open to the public for various gatherings.