Mary Burke, Scott Walker rely on old favorites in final debate

Mary Burke and Gov. Scott Walker shook hands before their final debate on Oct. 17, 2014. JS Photo Michael Sears
Mary Burke and Gov. Scott Walker shook hands before their final debate on Oct. 17, 2014. JS Photo Michael Sears

Their first meeting featured a lot of tried and True, but the second debate between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke on Oct. 17, 2014 bent more towards tried and False.

Burke repeated a claim that under Walker’s policies, "the typical Wisconsin family has actually seen their real income drop by nearly $3,000 in the last four years."

We rated that Burke claim Mostly False. While median household income in Wisconsin has fallen $2,743 in four years, most of the drop occurred before Walker took office in 2011.

And she didn’t back away from saying that Wisconsin is "dead last" in the Midwest on job creation -- a claim we rated False. That is on target over the most recent three-year period available using quarterly jobs data, March 2011 to March 2014. But that period does not correspond to Walker’s term. And in the last year Wisconsin moved ahead of two other midwestern states, based on that data.

Walker blamed his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, for tax and spending hikes that are "largely responsible" for the state’s 133,000 drop in private-sector jobs from 2006 to 2010.

We rated that claim Mostly False, and noted the state and national economy was caught in the worst downturn in decades. "The recession was deeper and more severe than any single state’s policies, including those of Doyle," we noted at the time. And Wisconsin actually fared somewhat better than the rest of the country.

But each scored some clean -- or at least cleaner -- points in the debate, their second and last appearance before the Nov. 4, 2014 election.

Walker repeatedly mentioned the September jobs report issued Oct. 16, 2014 by the state Department of Workforce Development. That report said preliminary estimates show the state added 8,400 private-sector jobs in September, a figure that is close to the total of all jobs created in the first eight months of the year.

However, that report is based on preliminary estimates from a small fraction of state employers. Indeed, the margin of error for the September 2014 report was 7,890 jobs. And data has been revised by as much as 3,700 in a single month in 2014.

Not long after he took office, Walker celebrated the monthly jobs figures. But when they showed weakness, he began to criticize accuracy of the data, a change we rated a Full Flop. Now he is citing the monthly data prominently again.

The latest jobs report puts our overall count at 111,295 since Walker took office. That’s based on our tally on the Walk-O-Meter, which we use to monitor 65 promises made by Walker in 2010. That’s about 44 percent of the 250,000 jobs he promised, a pledge that we rated Promise Broken.

Burke said unemployment was as low as 4.8 percent when she ran the state’s Commerce Department under Doyle. That’s correct, we reported in an item on a different claim.

Walker was right, as well, when he said the only time in the last 25 years when the state’s unemployment rate exceeded the U.S. average was when Burke was in her Commerce job. We rated that Mostly True.

Burke decried the lack of small business development during Walker term, saying a study ranked Wisconsin 46th in new businesses started. We rated that Mostly True. Wisconsin actually tied for 45th in the well-known Kauffman index, which tracks new business owners in their first month of significant business activity.

Walker underscored his theme of tighter and more responsible state budgeting by pointing to a new report by his administration saying that the last fiscal year ended with a $517 million balance. He’s got that figure right, based on the Journal Sentinel and other news reports.

The two candidates met a week earlier for their first debate. In that one, our review found plenty of True, Mostly True or Half True statements from both candidates.

Burke said last week that Walker cut taxes for top earners while raising them on working families. We rated a similar claim Half True. Walker said that this December’s property tax bills on a typical home will be lower than they were before he took office. We rated that claim Mostly True. It wasn’t all because of actions by Walker and Republicans in Madison, and the claim is based on projections that could change.

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