The UW System's effort to attract and retain top faculty members includes offering pay packages that allows them to compete with peer universities. (Mike DeSisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.) The UW System's effort to attract and retain top faculty members includes offering pay packages that allows them to compete with peer universities. (Mike DeSisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)

The UW System's effort to attract and retain top faculty members includes offering pay packages that allows them to compete with peer universities. (Mike DeSisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)

By D.L. Davis July 3, 2019

The debate over the University of Wisconsin System’s ability to attract and retain top faculty members -- and, specifically, how to compete with what other universities offer -- has been going on for years. 

A statement regarding faculty salaries by UW System President Ray Cross topped PolitiFact Wisconsin’s most-clicked items for June.

Here is a look at our "High Five:"

  1. "Most research shows that (UW salaries) are a little behind, and (in) some areas we're behind more than others."

Cross made his case for a pay increases in a May 26, 2019, interview on WISN’s "UpFront."

His staff pointed us to the University of Wisconsin System’s online "Accountability Dashboard," which includes a "Faculty Compensation Gap" page.

For 2017-2018, the charts show that UW System salaries overall lagged peer institutions by 16.48%. 

Breaking it down further, the University of Wisconsin-Madison lagged by 15.60%; the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee lagged by 10.82%; and the other campuses lagged by 18.99%.

We rated Cross’ claim True.

2.   "We saw the prison population expand and vacancy rates for correctional officers go from 2.9% to 15.2%" over the last eight years, state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said May 21, 2019 in a tweet. 

A May 2019 report from the Legislative Audit Bureau noted the prison population declined from 2009 to 2011 (from 22,672 to 21,941), but has grown by 7.9 percent since then.

Meanwhile, according to the report, the turnover rate for correctional officers increased from 17.8 percent in fiscal year 2013-’14 to 26.1 percent in fiscal year 2017-’18.

We rated Taylor’s claim True.

3. Republicans on the budget-writing committee "did nothing" to address oversight of large-scale farms, "as literal manure is coming out of people’s faucets, said state Rep. Jimmy Anderson (D-Fitchburg) in a May 29, 2019 tweet. 

With large farms come a lot of animals (in Wisconsin, that typically means cows). And with a lot of animals, comes a lot of waste. To manage that waste, especially as it relates to water quality, provisions of the federal Clean Water Act come into play. In Wisconsin, those laws are overseen by the state Department of Natural Resources.

The provisions specifically apply to how manure is stored as waste or applied to fields as

fertilizer on farms with more than 1,000 "animal units." These are known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations -- or CAFOs.

Gov. Tony Evers’ original 2019-’21 budget proposal called for adding five staff positions to the 

DNR to oversee the large-scale operations and for increasing from $345 to $660 the annual

discharge permit fee paid by CAFO owners. Additionally, Evers proposed creating a new permit issuance fee of $3,270 for a CAFO to be paid every five years.

At the time of the claim, Republicans on the budget-writing committee had delayed action on those elements.

As for the second part of the claim, there are clear concerns about the impact of manure on drinking water,including cases where fecal microbes has been detected in water. But Anderson’s "literal" claim pushed the picture too far. 

We rated the claim Half True

4. "Just the last three weeks, on average about 23,000 women, children, men are coming over across the border illegally as family units or as unaccompanied children," said U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., in a May 26, 2019, television interview.

Republicans have repeatedly referred to a crisis at the nation’s southern border and U.S. Customs and Border Protection data indeed shows a dramatic shift in recent months.

The Border Patrol reported 440,000 apprehensions at the southwest border through May of 2019, already nearly equal to the 467,000 apprehensions in all of 2018. The number of apprehensions per month jumped from 48,000 in January to more than 90,000 in March and April and 133,000 in May.

We rated Johnson’s claim True.

5. "The United States is the ONLY industrialized country without universal healthcare," U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, in an April 30, 2019 tweet. 

In June 2015, our colleagues at PolitiFact National checked a very similar claim from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate: "We are the only major country on Earth that doesn't guarantee health care to all people as a right."

At the time, a spokesman said Sanders was referring to nations that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of 36 countries that includes Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and 26 more.

In its analysis, PolitiFact National cited a 2014 OECD report that found only two member countries lacked universal health care coverage: Mexico had passed a law in 2004 with the goal of getting to universal coverage, but at the time of the fact-check had not yet reached it. As of 2013, coverage had reached about 87% of the population.

However, by 2018, Mexico had implemented a public health care system known as Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social , which provides universal health care to Mexican families and foreign residents enrolled in the system.

The other country on the OECD’s lack of universal health care list: The United States. 

We rated Pocan’s claim True.

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PolitiFact Wisconsin's 'High Five' for June 2019