Preview: Scott Walker's 'State of the State'

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's 2018 "State of the State" speech is expected to be part review of accomplishments and part proposing new initiatives. (Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's 2018 "State of the State" speech is expected to be part review of accomplishments and part proposing new initiatives. (Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Keep an ear out for statements like these when Gov. Scott Walker makes his eighth State of the State address on Jan. 24, 2018.

Based on interviews the Republican gave ahead of his address, here are some things he might say -- and relevant fact checks that can help you evaluate his statements.

Also, scroll down and you’ll see recent fact checks by some of the Democratic candidates for governor on statements they’ve made about Walker.

Both sets of claims, or versions of them, are likely to be repeated as Walker seeks a third term in the November 2018 election.

$8 billion

You’ll likely hear something about $8 billion in tax cuts being done during Walker’s tenure. When Walker said in May 2017 that if tax cuts in his proposed 2017-’19 state budget were adopted, we rated it True. The state is on track to have generated more than $8 billion in tax cuts by June 2019.

Deficit/surplus

Walker has signaled that he will contrast his record as governor since 2011 with that of his predecessor, Democrat Jim Doyle, who served the previous eight years -- likely including a reference to a $3.6 billion budget deficit. In 2013, Walker stated: "The $3.6 billion deficit we inherited has turned into more than a half-billion-dollar surplus." Our rating was Half True. Walker cited accurate or close-to-accurate numbers that showed a turnaround from red to black in two years, but his claim mixed two different ways to define the size of the turnaround.

Everyone covered

Walker likes to say, sometimes while also dissing Obamacare, that because of actions he took, for the first time in Wisconsin's history "everyone living in poverty is covered under Medicaid." When he made that statement in 2015, our rating was Mostly True. The changes made everyone in Wisconsin with an annual income at or below the federal poverty level eligible for Medicaid, a first. But we noted that Walker also used an Obamacare provision to move less-poor people off of Medicaid and into the marketplace created by Obamacare.

We’re No. 1?

In 2015, Walker declared: "Since I took office, Wisconsin now has the second-highest health care quality ranking in the country." More recently, he’s claiming we’re No. 1. On his earlier claim, we gave a ranking of Half True. Walker had cited a reputable ranking from a federal agency. But the state had always been ranked highly and, aside from a downward blip the year after he took office, had long been No. 1 or No. 2.

We’re top 10?

Walker often says something like this claim he made in July 2017: "We took Wisconsin from the Bottom 10 for business to the Top 10." That wording rated a Mostly False. Site selection professionals reported improvements in Wisconsin’s business environment, but noted there was no consensus on how to define and rank the business climate between states. Moreover, the claim referred to just one of many rankings that attempt to quantify data and perceptions on states’ business environments.

Unemployment/people working

Walker is touting Wisconsin’s low unemployment rate, around 3 percent, and he often states that more people are employed than ever before. When we checked the employed claim in early 2016, we rated it Mostly True. The statistic was accurate, even if the unemployment rate is a better measure to take into account population changes.

School funding

Walker in February 2017 said: "We are investing more money into education than ever before in the history of Wisconsin." We rated his claim Mostly False. That was true in raw dollars. But his statement didn’t account for inflation-adjusted numbers, the best way to look at figures over time. When adjusted for inflation, fiscal year 2003 would be the highest ever. More recently, Walker has made the statement with the qualifier of "more actual dollars."

Now to some claims made in recent months by some of the Democratic hopefuls.

Fact checking the Dems

Higher education: Walker has touted his tuition freezes for the University of Wisconsin System, and a recent boost in state funding for the system. In contrast, Kelda Helen Roys pointed out that under Walker, in 2011, Wisconsin for the first time spent "more on our prison system than we did" on the UW System. Our rating: Mostly True (the trend started before Walker took office).

Middle class: Mahlon Mitchell claimed Wisconsin has "the fastest-shrinking middle class in the country." That was Mostly False. Wisconsin ranked first in the shrinkage of the size of its middle class when comparing 2000 to 2016 -- but 14th during Walker’s tenure as governor.

Wages: Matt Flynn attacked Walker by saying that average wages in Wisconsin, when adjusted for inflation, "are lower today than they were under" Doyle. Our rating: Half True. The average wage was actually higher under Walker than it was when Doyle left office in 2010. But sometimes people use the more common term average when they’re actually referring to the median -- which some economists say is a better measure. The median wage was higher when Doyle left office than under Walker.

Jobs: "Job creation fell by 70 percent in Wisconsin in 2016" under Walker, was a claim made by Tony Evers. Our rating was Mostly True. The one-year growth in private-sector jobs in 2016 was 66 percent lower than the growth in 2015 (13,000 jobs vs. 38,000 jobs). That being said, private-sector jobs have increased each year during Walker’s tenure, though much more slowly in 2016.

Foxconn: Andy Gronik said that in its deal for a giant manufacturing plant, the state is "guaranteeing Foxconn almost $3 billion, but Foxconn is not contractually guaranteeing how many full-time employees it will hire, for how long and at what pay." The full amount would be paid only if the company invests at least $9 billion in its plant and, in rough numbers, employs at least 13,000 people earning at least $30,000 per year. That put Gronik’s claim at Half True.