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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 12, 2011

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore says Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker invented the state’s $3.6 billion deficit

The Wisconsin Democratic Party billed its Founders Day Gala as an event to "focus on resistance to Scott Walker's divisive power grab."

Among the speakers who dressed down Wisconsin’s Republican governor at the April 30, 2011 event was U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisconsin.

Moore began her remarks by referring to the keynote speaker, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and his new memoir, A Reason to Believe.

"I was thinking: How in the world can you believe, what reason would you have to believe in anything, when you had just elected a governor who says that Wisconsin was open for business and therefore closed to every single human being in the state," Moore said to applause.

Moore said Walker was cutting funding for schools, Medicaid, birth control and public transportation, but providing "$200 million worth of tax breaks -- and (he) just literally invented a $3.6 billion budget deficit."

Wait a minute. "Literally invented"?

We’ve been down this road a couple of times before.

  • In November 2010, as his time as governor was winding down, Democrat Jim Doyle said the deficit was as low as $1.5 billion. We rated that statement False, given that Doyle’s top administrator almost immediately portrayed the figure as $2.2 billion and experts outside of government put it at about $3 billion.
  • In February 2011, about six weeks after Walker took office, state Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) received a False for his claim about the shortfall. Pocan said Walker manufactured a fiscal crisis and that his $3.6 billion estimate was a "bogus figure." At that time, we found Doyle had left a deficit of more than $3 billion and that Walker followed the past Madison practices in making his estimate.

We asked Moore what proof she had that Walker had invented a $3.6 billion deficit. We’ll address point by point the response we received from Moore’s spokesman, David Frey:

Point 1: Moore thinks Walker "made the state’s fiscal situation worse" and the fiscal bureau "spells out the costs of his tax cuts."  Frey noted the bureau said Walker’s 2011-2013 budget includes $83 million in tax cuts.

But that figure doesn’t address the size of the budget deficit, which existed before Walker proposed his budget in March 2011. And it ignores the fact that the budget also includes $49 million in tax increases.

Frey also noted $117 million less the state will take in because of other Walker tax changes, but that figure also does not go to the size of the deficit, either.  

Point 2: Moore thinks that when compared to other states, Wisconsin’s budget situation "is much more manageable."  

That’s largely opinion and it doesn’t specify the size of Wisconsin’s deficit.

Point 3: Moore thinks Walker "is making all the wrong choices on this matter."

Another opinion that doesn’t get to the deficit question.

Point 4: Walker’s changes to state laws to reduce the collective bargaining powers of public employees "were more about ideology than about budget issues."

Again, that’s an opinion -- one widely shared by Walker critics. But, like the others, that’s not on point in terms of the size of the budget deficit.

(On May 11, 2011, a new projection showed the state would take in about $200 million a year more than previously estimated over three years. It is unclear how Walker and the Legislature will adjust the budget proposal. But this, too, does not go to Moore’s claim, which was made before the new projection was released.)

In sum, Moore doesn’t provide any evidence to back her claim -- which means we find ourselves at a familiar destination.

Moore said Walker "literally invented" a $3.6 billion state budget deficit. We’ve previously established that the figure is a reasonable estimate. Moore offers no new evidence to the contrary. We rate her claim False.

Our Sources

WisconsinEye, video(at 23:00) of Wisconsin Democratic Party’s Founders Day event, April 30, 2011

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Gov. Jim Doyle says Wisconsin’s projected budget shortfall is $1.5 billion, much lower than previously projected," Nov. 29, 2011

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Wisconsin state Rep. Mark Pocan says Gov. Scott Walker’s estimate of a $3.6 billion state budget deficit is a ‘bogus figure,’" Feb. 25, 2011

Email and phone interview, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore communications director David Frey, May 10 and 11, 2011

Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, letter to state Sen. Alberta Darling and state Rep. Robin Vos, Jan. 31, 2011

Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, "Budget Adjustment Legislation,"Feb. 14, 2011

Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, "State Tax and Fee Modifications Included in the Governor's 2011-13 Budget Recommendations," April 15, 2011

Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, letter to state Sen. Alberta Darling and state Rep. Robin Vos, May 11, 2011

Wisconsin Department of Administration, "Calculation of 2011-2013 Biennial Budget Deficit Under LFB Jan. 31, 2011 Re-estimates," Feb. 4, 2011

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U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore says Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker invented the state’s $3.6 billion deficit

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