Gov. Scott Walker (center front) acknowledges the gallery during his State of the State address on Jan. 15, 2013. Gov. Scott Walker (center front) acknowledges the gallery during his State of the State address on Jan. 15, 2013.

Gov. Scott Walker (center front) acknowledges the gallery during his State of the State address on Jan. 15, 2013.

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher January 22, 2014

What might we hear when Gov. Scott Walker gives his fourth State of the State address Jan. 22, 2014?

Some of the speech, including details on which taxes the governor intends to cut, will be new material.

But other statements are likely to touch on actions Walker has taken since he became governor in January 2011.

And then there will be reactions to the speech from Democrats.

So, here are four statements by Walker and how we rated them at the time. There’s a good chance you’ll hear some version of the claims in the State of the State.

And we’re tossing in four recent statements Democrats made about Walker and how we rated them. Those claims, too, stand a good chance of getting in the mix in the aftermath of the governor’s speech.

Statements by Walker

1. Deficit-to-surplus

Walker has boasted that he turned the state's $3.6 billion budget deficit into a surplus exceeding $500 million. We rated that Half True.

There’s some truth here, in that Walker cited accurate or close-to-accurate numbers that show a turnaround from red to black in two years.

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.

2. Business climate

Another Walker boast is that Wisconsin's rank for doing business went from 43 four years ago to 17 under his watch. We rated that Half True.

It reached 17 in one study of chief executive officer perceptions. But the "state’s ranking" depends on which study you read. The governor cherry-picked the most favorable of three studies on his side and ignored studies showing much lower rankings and little or no improvement, creating a misleading impression of dramatic improvement.

3. Doyle and Burke

Walker contends that under policies of his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, and Doyle's commerce secretary, Mary Burke, the state lost 133,000 jobs. Mostly False.

Walker was correct about the number. But experts agreed that Wisconsin’s economy was caught in the same recession that crippled the entire country -- the recession was deeper and more severe than any single state’s policies, including those of Doyle and Burke, the lone declared Democratic candidate against Walker in the November 2014 election. The experts also noted that Wisconsin actually fared somewhat better than the rest of the country.

4. Jobs/Unemployment

Walker frequently points out how the state's unemployment rate has dropped since he took office. Less often, he acknowledges the state has created fewer jobs than he had hoped.

Walker is less than halfway toward keeping his campaign promise of 250,000 private-sector jobs being created in his four-year term, according to our latest Walk-O-Meter tally of his jobs promise. With about 104,372 jobs created, we’ve rated the promise In the Works.

Statements about Walker

1. Tiny tax cut?

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, took aim at a $650 million state income tax cut adopted by Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

She said that "if you make the average amount of people in Wisconsin -- $50,000 -- you got $1.60 less a week in taxes" and "it didn’t show up in your paycheck." We rated that Mostly True.

The average income Vinehout cited is slightly high, but within reasonable rounding range. The dollar amount saved is on target or very close to what she said, with the caveat that the analysis she used is set up for income ranges rather than a precise income.

And Vinehout was right that the tax cut did not just show up in workers’ paychecks. Due to inaction by the state, taxpayers must instead get the money through income tax refunds or by filing new withholding forms with the state.

2. Tax hike?

Burke seized on comments Walker made several weeks ago about possible tax reforms. She claimed Walker has outlined a plan to eliminate the state income tax and more than double the state sales tax, resulting in higher overall taxes for nearly 80 percent of taxpayers.We rated that claim Pants on Fire.

Walker has said he wants to explore the possibility of eliminating the state income tax, which likely would trigger some increase in the state sales tax.

But he has not advanced a plan to eliminate the income tax, nor to raise the sales tax by any particular amount, and he has discussed exempting essentials such as clothing from the sales tax.

3. Size of the budget

Burke said the state budget "has actually grown by $4.6 billion" under Walker, suggesting Walker had boosted the spending. We rated that Half True.

The figure is accurate, but it is due almost completely to Medicaid costs, not budget decisions Walker made.

4. Job prospects

Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate said Walker has dropped Wisconsin "to 45th in the nation in job growth prospects while campaigning for president out of state." We rated that  Mostly False.

Forbes rates Wisconsin 45th, although that’s a slight improvement, not a drop. And Walker bears some, but not all of the blame, for the ranking.

For more information:

Go here to see claims by and about Walker that we've rated on the Truth-O-Meter.

Go here to see what progress Walker has made on 65 campaign promises that we track on the Walk-O-Meter.

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Our Sources

PolitiFact Wisconsin items as noted.

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