Fact checking Scott Walker in the second debate

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (fourth from right) was among the Republican presidential candidates who participated in the second Republican presidential debate on Sept. 16, 2015. (AP photo)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (fourth from right) was among the Republican presidential candidates who participated in the second Republican presidential debate on Sept. 16, 2015. (AP photo)

No longer a front runner for the Republican presidential nomination, Gov. Scott Walker entered the second GOP debate on Sept. 16, 2015 pledging to be more aggressive than he had in the first.

Walker inserted himself into the discussion early on, leading to an exchange with current front-runner Donald Trump. In turn, there were claims and counter-claims.

So, here’s a look at some of the statements made by Walker, statements made about him and how they have fared on the Truth-O-Meter.

Condition of Wisconsin’s budget

Early in the debate, Trump attacked Walker by making references to "losing" $2.2 billion after Wisconsin once had a projected $1 billion surplus.

According to a transcript, this was the exchange:

TRUMP: Well, in Wisconsin...

WALKER: You -- you -- let me finish...

TRUMP: Excuse me.

WALKER: No, no...

TRUMP: In Wisconsin, you're losing $2.2 billion right now.

WALKER: You're using the talking...

TRUMP: I would do so much better than that.

WALKER: Mr. Trump, you're using the talking points of the Democrats...

TRUMP: No.

WALKER: ... and as we all know...

TRUMP: I'm using facts.

WALKER: ... that failed three times in four and a half years when I got elected, because it is working. We balanced a budget.

Then Trump said: "But when the folks of Iowa found out the true facts of the job that you've done in Wisconsin, all of a sudden ... he was No. 1 and now he's No. 6 or seven in the polls. So, look, we brought it out, you were supposed to make a billion dollars in the state. You lost 2.2 -- you have right now, a huge budget deficit."

Boiled down, that’s essentially the same claim Trump made in Iowa in July 2015, when he said -- mixing apples and oranges -- that under Walker, Wisconsin "projected a $1 billion (budget) surplus and it turns out to be a deficit of $2.2 billion." Our rating was Mostly False.  

In early 2014, there was a projection of a $1 billion surplus in the state budget heading into the 2015-’17 budget period. Late in 2014, there was a projection of a $2.2 billion shortfall -- the difference between expected revenues and the amount of money being requested by state agencies. But the shortfall was never a deficit -- and some of the surplus was consciously spent by Republicans, as tax cuts.

(PolitiFact National also looked at Trump’s debate statement and rated it Mostly False, finding he had repeated a debunked claim.)

Solving deficit, cutting taxes

Responding to Trump’s attack during the debate, Walker said:

"We balanced a $3.6 billion budget deficit, we did it by cutting taxes -- $4.7 billion to help working families, family farmers, small business owners and senior citizens. And it's about time people in America stand up and take note of this."

Walker’s first claim was similar to one he made in 2013, when he said: "The $3.6 billion deficit we inherited has turned into more than a half-billion-dollar surplus." Our rating on the 2013 statement was Half True. Walker cited accurate or close-to-accurate numbers that showed a turnaround from red to black during his first two years as governor. But his claim had a context problem because it mixed two different ways to define the size of the turnaround. When viewed properly, the turnaround fell a little short of what he said.

As for the claim of cutting taxes by $4.7 billion as governor, we’ve rated that True.

The vast majority of that total comes from the continuing impact of cuts made during Walker’s first term, such as a 2011 manufacturing and industry tax cut, and a 2013 income and property tax cut. New cuts in the 2015-’17 budget are projected to reduce taxes by $213 million by 2017.

Planned Parenthood funding

About an hour into the debate, Walker referenced how he had taken away all state funding in Wisconsin for Planned Parenthood, calling for the same to be done at the federal level.

We covered some of that ground in August 2015, when Democratic presidential front runner Hillary Clinton said Walker's defunding "left women across the state stranded with nowhere else to turn" for cancer screenings, breast exams and birth control. Our rating was Half True.

In 2011, Walker eliminated all state funding to Planned Parenthood, which in turn closed five clinics over the next three years. The loss of those clinics meant women were referred to other facilities, in some cases a considerable distance away, in order to continue getting services. But Clinton’s statement went too far in that Walker’s move affected only some parts of the state and it’s wrong to say women in those areas have "nowhere else to turn."

100,000 protesters

Toward the end of the debate, Walker cited his leadership skills, saying he stood up to 100,000 protesters who came to Madison. This was a more general and safer claim, given that some days there may have been as many as 100,000 demonstrators at the Wisconsin Capitol protesting his collective bargaining reforms in 2011.

Conversely, in July 2015, when Walker said his political opponents "brought 100,000 protesters into our state," we rated the claim False. There was no evidence to indicate that all or nearly all the protesters were from outside of Wisconsin.


More on Scott Walker

Walker's record on the Truth-O-Meter, with ratings on claims by him and about him, is here.

And the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel offers in-depth coverage of him and his campaign with its Scott Walker File.