Updating the Walk-O-Meter

Gov. Scott Walker campaigned for re-election in 2014 at a plant in Platteville, Wis. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Gov. Scott Walker campaigned for re-election in 2014 at a plant in Platteville, Wis. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Walker defeated Democrat Mary Burke in 2014 to win a second term. (Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Walker defeated Democrat Mary Burke in 2014 to win a second term. (Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

We have tracked on our Walk-O-Meter 86 promises made by Republican Scott Walker during his 2010 and 2014 campaigns for governor, and rated 84 of them.

Some promises are prominent: Create 250,000 jobs (Promise Broken) and Freeze property taxes (Promise Kept). Others are obscure: Appoint a "whitetail deer trustee" to review the deer counting system (Promise Kept) and Require use of accepted accounting principles to balance all state budgets (Promise Broken).

Here’s a breakdown of the 84 promises we’ve rated:

Rating

Percentage

Promise Kept

49%

Promise Broken

19%

Compromise

13%

In the Works

12%

Stalled

6%

Not Yet Rated

2%

Today, as Walker sets himself for a third run in 2018 -- with at least five Democrats looking to challenge him (Dana Wachs, Andy Gronik, Kathleen Vinehout, Mike McCabe and Tony Evers) -- we tackle the two promises we’ve yet to rate:

Work with utilities to reduce the cost of energy for homeowners and employers

With his "Continuing Wisconsin’s Comeback" plan, Walker pledged during the 2014 campaign to work with utilities to reduce the cost of energy.

The state Public Service Commission has reduced electricity costs for certain large electricity users by enabling them to pay the lowest going rate in the Midwest, Citizens Utility Board executive director Tom Content told us. The board advocates for residential and small business customers. Before that change, these big users were paying regular Wisconsin rates that are higher because unlike market rates, they fully account for power plants and other investments in the utility’s infrastructure, he said.

But aside from that, costs are higher now than they were in 2014, according to data provided by the Citizens Utility Board:

Monthly electricity bills for residents and small businesses

(Based on 600 kilowatt hours per month; data retrieved from state Public Service Commission)

Utility

Total 2014 bill

Total 2016 bill

Dollar increase

Percentage increase

Madison Gas & Electric

$96.85

$100.82

$3.97

4%
 

Northern States Power Co.

$79.21

$82.84

$3.63

5%

We Energies

$91.42

$94.22

$2.80

3%

Wisconsin Power And Light Co.

$76.13

$80.34

$4.21

6%

Wisconsin Public Service Corp.

$77.26

$80.58

$3.32

4%

 

Industrial (essentially factories) electricity rates

(Cents per kilowatt hour; data from Brubaker & Associates)

Utility

2014

2015

2016

2017

Madison Gas & Electric

8.53

8.99

8.74

8.80

Northern States Power Co.

6.53

6.67

6.56

6.68

We Energies

8.22

8.43

8.36

8.26

Wisconsin Power And Light Co.

6.27

6.39

6.97

6.87

Wisconsin Public Service Corp.

6.14

6.31

6.30

6.28

 

Commercial (businesses that aren’t factories) electricity rates

(Cents per kilowatt hour; data from U.S. Energy Information Administration)

Statewide average

2014: 10.77

2015: 10.89

2016: 10.95

 

As for natural gas, prices in Wisconsin decreased from 2014 to 2016, but the state has very little, if any, leverage over them, Content said. Prices have dropped across the country partly because an increase in fracking has raised the supply, he said.

Given that so far, electricity costs by and large have increased, we rate Walker’s promise Stalled.

Sell unneeded state assets for state debt reduction

Walker’s pledge to pay down state debt by the sale of unneeded state assets hasn’t really gotten off the ground.

A state law adopted in 2013 was aimed at using state property sales to reduce state debt, but according to a June 2016 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel news article, it had largely gone unused:

  • The measure, part of the 2013-’15 state budget, gave Walker broad authority through the state Building Commission to sell property -- including prisons, highways, heating plants and university dormitories -- to pay off state loans. The debt amounted to $8 billion at the time.

  • The law had only been used in one deal, and that had been in the works before Walker took office. Two properties were sold for a total of $13 million in that deal. But most of the money was pegged for paying off debts on those properties, not for retiring previous state debts.

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson told us there have not been any more sales.

We rate this promise Stalled.