Jessica King was a part of the first graduating class of Emerge Wisconsin, which touts itself as the premier program for training Democratic women to run for office. She was elected to the Oshkosh Common Council in 2007, even before completing the training.
In 2008, King ran for an open seat in the state Senate, but lost to Republican Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac. After a recount, the margin was 163 votes out of more than 83,000 cast.
When Hopper became one of the Republican senators targeted for recall for his support of GOP Gov. Scott Walker, King entered the race, creating a rematch.
Hopper dismissed King as having a "liberal tax-and-spend agenda" and has since sharpened his attack ahead of the Aug. 9, 2011 election.
A Hopper TV ad released July 15, 2011 begins by praising his own work as a lawmaker. Then, as background music turns ominous, the narrator says:
"When you see Jessica King’s negative attacks, remember 63. King opposed balancing the state budget and voted to increase her pay with taxpayer dollars by 63 percent. Raising your pay by 63? Does Jessica King really care about you and me?"
A politician voting herself a 63 percent pay raise during tough economic times?
That’s worth a look.
Asked for evidence to back the attack, Hopper campaign spokesman Sean Stephenson cited the 2009 and 2010 and Oshkosh city budgets.
They show the pay appropriated for the seven council members -- the mayor and six aldermen -- totaled $17,400 in 2008 and had risen to $28,500 in 2010. That’s an increase of 63.8 percent.
But that doesn’t break down how much of a raise King might have received, nor whether she voted for it. So we went back to Stephenson, who stood by the 63 percent claim. He said the proof King voted for the raise was that she voted for the 2009 and 2010 city budgets.
King campaign spokeswoman Gillian Morris pointed instead to a vote on a pay raise ordinance the Oshkosh council took April 8, 2008.
The ordinance and official minutes from that meeting show the council voted, 4-3, to double the mayor’s salary to $6,000 and boost the salary of each of the six council members from $2,400 to $3,750, or 56 percent.
King voted no on the raises, saying salaries should be reviewed by a citizen committee.
Oshkosh City Manager Mark Rohloff said the council members’ pay can be raised only through an ordinance such as the pay ordinance King voted against. City budgets cannot authorize pay raises for elected officials; they only carry out what has been legally authorized by an earlier pay ordinance, he said.
One more point before we close: By law, elected officials cannot directly vote themselves pay raises. Any raises that they adopt can’t take effect for a particular office until after that office comes up for election again.
The Oshkosh raises took effect in April 2009, a year after the council adopted the pay ordinance. So, although King voted against the raises, she did receive the 56 percent raise herself after being re-elected in 2009.
Let’s get back to the claim.
In a TV ad, Hopper said King voted to increase her pay on the Oshkosh Common Council by 63 percent. It’s ridiculous to claim King voted for the raise, given that she voted against the ordinance that raised the pay -- which is the only legal way council pay can be raised. And Hopper’s claim of 63 percent itself is false, given that the correct raise figure is a somewhat lower 56 percent.
Ridiculous and false. Around here, that’s a combustible mixture. We give Hopper’s claim a Pants on Fire.