Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.

Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Debate preview: What will Scott Walker and Mary Burke say?
If the campaign ads and stump speeches are a predictor, we already know some of what Gov. Scott Walker and challenger Mary Burke will say in their first debate. If the campaign ads and stump speeches are a predictor, we already know some of what Gov. Scott Walker and challenger Mary Burke will say in their first debate.

If the campaign ads and stump speeches are a predictor, we already know some of what Gov. Scott Walker and challenger Mary Burke will say in their first debate.

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher October 9, 2014

Given that the first debate between Gov. Scott Walker and Mary Burke is on a Friday evening, we realize you might already have plans for a fish fry or a high school football game instead.

So, ahead of the Oct. 10, 2014 encounter, here’s an ICYMMI  (In Case You Might Miss It) -- a debate preview, of sorts.

It’s our best-guess at seven things Burke might say and seven things Walker might say, along with relevant fact-checks and articles we’ve already done.

The debate, to be held in Eau Claire, is at 7 p.m. Wisconsin time. The program is being broadcast live on TV and radio stations around the state. Wisconsin Public Television plans to live stream the event, as well.

The only other Walker-Burke debate is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 17, 2014 (another Friday) in Milwaukee. Both debates are sponsored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.

By the way, if you hear Burke or Walker make a claim during the debate (or anytime, for that matter) that we should consider fact checking, let us know. Tweet us with #PolitiFactThis or shoot us an email: [email protected].

We’ll start our preview with the Democratic challenger.


... Job growth has gotten worse during every year of Walker's term as governor.

That's False. The job growth figures show an increase, and then a decrease: 2011 -- 29,800 more jobs; 2012 -- 33,872; 2013 -- 29,723. With a lag in the tabulations, and four more months to be reported, it won't be clear for some time how 2014 will turn out.

… New numbers show Wisconsin is "dead last" in the Midwest in job growth.

That’s also False. In making the claim in September 2014, Burke ignored the most recent 12-month figures -- a common yardstick for economists -- that say Wisconsin’s performance improved and was better than two other Midwest states.

(Worth noting: When Burke first made the claim, in August 2014, we rated it True. At the time, the most recent quarterly numbers went to the end of 2013, so they matched with the first three years of Walker’s term. In addition, the most-recent one-year period also showed the state last in the Midwest at the time.)

… Wisconsin is 46th in the country in new businesses started.

That’s Mostly True. Wisconsin actually tied for 45th in the well-known Kauffman index, which tracks new business owners in their first month of significant business activity.

… Walker cut "taxes for the wealthiest" and raised taxes "on 140,000 Wisconsin families."

Our rating was Half True. Walker cut taxes for wealthier residents and raised taxes for people on the lower end of the scale. But he also made tax cuts that applied across the board.

… Walker cut school funding more per student than any governor in America.

Our rating: Mostly True. Cuts Walker made in his first state budget, for 2011-'13, were the largest based on two measures. But more recent figures indicate Wisconsin’s school spending cuts are no longer the largest, at least for a more recent period.

… Wisconsin is 38th in the country in terms of proficiency standards in student testing.

Our rating was Mostly True. This claim cited a respected national source and referred to the latest ranking available, although it is based on 2011 data. Wisconsin’s adoption of the Common Core school standards could change the state’s ranking in the future.

… "I grew the division that I ran" at Trek Bicycle Corp. from $3 million to over $50 million in sales.

We can’t say whether one of Burke’s favorite biographical boasts is accurate. She and Trek repeatedly refused PolitiFact Wisconsin’s requests to document her claim. We did write an article delving into what Burke said.

(Since then, Daniel Bice, an investigative columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, revealed more details about Burke's claim.)

Now onto the Republican incumbent.


... "In the last year, Wisconsin ranked third in Midwest job growth."

That's False. That’s old news. The updated ranking is fourth, closer to middle of the pack, something the governor knew before the particular ad making that claim aired.

(When Walker first made this claim, in late-August 2014, we rated it Mostly True. The most recent one-year figures available at the time -- July 2013 through July 2014 -- showed Wisconsin was third among 10 Midwestern states in the raw number of jobs added.) 

… "Thanks to our reforms, the average family will have an extra $322 to spend."

That’s Mostly True. The governor accurately pegged the combined estimated savings for a median-income family from his income- and property-tax cuts. But not every average family is in circumstances to receive a cut of that size, particularly if they are not property owners.

… Under his leadership, more people in Wisconsin "have access to health care."

That’s Half True. Walker can take some of the credit, given that under a change he made everyone in Wisconsin living under the federal poverty line is now eligible for Medicaid. But far more people are getting access to health care, whether from the government or private carriers, as a result of Obamacare, and Walker rejected an expansion of Medicaid offered as part of Obamacare.

… Burke’s "record" is "130,000 fewer jobs."

We rated that False. The number, included in an ad from the Republican Governor’s Association, corresponds to the second term of Walker’s predecessor, Democrat Jim Doyle, not to the shorter period that Burke served as Doyle’s secretary of Commerce -- a period that saw an increase in jobs.

… Wisconsin ranks 11th in the nation in "total business establishment growth" compared to 47th in the years Burke was Commerce secretary.

That’s True. The numbers, though not covering Walker’s complete time as governor, are the latest available and they support Walker’s statement.

… Walker’s "Act 10 reforms" have "saved the taxpayers some $3 billion."

Our rating: Mostly True. Requiring most state and local government employees to contribute more to their pensions saved public employers more than $3 billion. Those costs haven’t simply been eliminated, however. They’ve been taken on by public employees, who are also taxpayers.

… The only time over the last 25 years when the state’s unemployment rate exceeded the U.S. average was when Burke was Commerce secretary.

When we rated this claim, in February 2014, it was Mostly True. Between 1998 and 2013, there were 15 months, in 2006 and 2007, all when Burke ran Commerce, when Wisconsin’s rate was higher. The claim only indirectly blamed Burke,and other factors were involved.

Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter

Our Sources

PolitiFact Wisconsin items as noted

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Tom Kertscher

Debate preview: What will Scott Walker and Mary Burke say?