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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher October 6, 2010

GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker says he has given back more than $370,000 of his salary to Milwaukee County

For years, folks in southeastern Wisconsin have heard about Scott Walker, the Milwaukee County executive, giving up thousands upon thousands of dollars of his salary.

Elsewhere, the claim may be more of a jaw-dropper.

In March 2010, after launching his campaign for governor, Walker used a TV ad to tout the money he has returned and the amount is also proclaimed on Walker’s campaign website:

Since being elected in 2002, Scott Walker has "given back over $370,000 of his salary to the county."

The returned money was part of a 2002 campaign promise to cut the job’s salary by $60,000 per year. Walker, the Republican candidate for governor, made the pledge in the wake of a scandal over lavish county pensions.

His Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, has taken a jab at Walker, pointing out Walker has reduced his annual giveback from $60,000 to $10,000. The Barrett campaign points to a 2002 Walker flier, which includes the promise to reduce the county exec salary by $60,000 per year.

That promise, however, didn’t specify for how long Walker would reduce the salary by $60,000. And in April 2008, he was re-elected after telling voters he would reduce the giveback to $10,000. (Walker joked at the time, according to a news report, that his decision to give back nearly half of his $129,114 salary had been unpopular with his wife.)

(For those wondering, Barrett has taken six furlough days, two in 2009 and four in 2010, according to an aide. He has been taking his full salary, which this year is $147,335, according to the city comptroller’s office.)

So now the $370,000 question: Has Walker really given back that much back?

Let’s find out.

To get our tallies, we went first to the Walker gubernatorial campaign, which referred us to the county Department of Administrative Services. That office reports directly to Walker, so we also asked for figures from Milwaukee County Treasurer Dan Diliberti, a Democrat.

Both offices agreed on the figures.

Taking into account the partial year Walker served after being elected in 2002, and an odd number of pay periods in 2003 through 2005, Walker returned the equivalent of $60,000 per year from 2002 through 2007.

In 2008, which was covered partly by the $60,000 promise and mostly by the $10,000 promise, Walker returned $18,846. And in 2009 and so far in 2010, Walker not only returned the equivalent of $10,000 per year, but he’s also written checks to the county, for just under $500 each, for one furlough day in 2009 and six more furlough days in 2010.

The grand total?

Walker has foregone $375,070 in salary since being elected county executive in 2002 -- $5,070 more than what he has claimed during the gubernatorial campaign.

Our summation is as simple as the math:

In his initial campaign, Walker made a pledge to return $60,000 a year, though he later was re-elected on a smaller give-back pledge. He said his checkbook is more than $370,000 lighter -- and the county’s coffers that much better off. The record shows Walker’s claim is accurate. We rate it True.

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Our Sources

Email interview with Fran McLaughlin, spokeswoman for Milwaukee County Executive's office, Oct. 4, 2010

Email interview with Tom Barrett gubernatorial campaign spokesman Phil Walzak, Sept. 30, 2010

Email interview with Deputy City of Milwaukee Comptroller Michael Daun, Oct. 5, 2010

Interview with Milwaukee County Controller Scott Manske, Oct. 5, 2010

Letter, Milwaukee County Treasurer Daniel Diliberiti to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Oct. 4, 2010

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Walker would lower salary givebacks, March 19, 2008

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Walker touts frugality in first TV ad, March 20, 2010

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Barrett, Walker battle over budgeting, Sept. 27, 2010

Walker for county executive campaign, "3 things I’ll do in 30 days" flier

Walker for governor campaign, "Results" ad, March 17, 2010

Walker for governor campaign website, biography

Interview, Jodie Tabak, spokeswoman for Milwaukee mayor's office, Oct. 5, 2010

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Tom Kertscher

GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker says he has given back more than $370,000 of his salary to Milwaukee County

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