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By Dave Umhoefer July 13, 2012

Roys says Pocan voted with Walker in favor of tax cuts for wealthy corporations

State Reps. Kelda Helen Roys and Mark Pocan united against Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining limits in 2011, but competition for a big promotion is creating friction between the two Madison Democrats.

The two are seeking the Madison-area 2nd Congressional District seat, which is open because U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin is running for the U.S. Senate. The all-important primary in the heavily Democratic district is Aug. 14, 2012.

In the race, Roys is tagging Pocan as "caving" by voting with Walker on two pro-business bills.

In pointed remarks at a July 9, 2012 news conference, Roys riffed about Walker’s "outrageous" series of "corporate tax giveaways for wealthy corporations -- some of them out of state." She said the Republican governor’s intent was to help his "deep pocketed friends."

Then she went after Pocan.

"Were we going to vote for Walker’s corporate tax giveaways or were we going to do the right thing for working families that need and rely on the public services we provide?" Roys asked. "On those votes, when it really mattered, Mark Pocan failed the judgment test by voting for Walker’s corporate tax giveaways."

In a district that strongly opposed Walker in the failed June 2012 recall election, those are fighting words.

Did Pocan help Walker deliver tax breaks for "wealthy corporations"?

Roys singled Pocan out for votes on two bills in the January 2011 special session. She repeated the charge in a new TV ad, though without narrowing it to two bills, and without naming Pocan.

--Assembly Bill 3, which wiped away two years of taxes for businesses that relocate to Wisconsin. Estimated price tag in lost tax revenue for the state treasury over two years: $1 million over two years.

--Assembly Bill 4, which expanded the Economic Development Tax Credit program by $25 million, bringing it to $98.1 million. The credit can go to businesses that locate or retain corporate headquarters in Wisconsin, create jobs, make capital investments or train workers, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Pocan did vote with the Republicans on both bills. But both bills attracted major support from Democrats in the Assembly, passing with 82-12 majorities. In other words, Pocan joined about two-thirds of the Democratic caucus in the Assembly in voting "yes."

Roys was opposed, decrying aid to out-of-state firms while existing businesses paid full freight, and calling the Economic Development Tax Credit expansion unnecessary. She said she thinks Pocan "caved" because "people want to give Walker the benefit of the doubt and don’t want to be tagged as anti jobs."

Pocan, a small business owner, defends the bills as modest efforts of the kind that Roys herself has supported in the past -- as she did in 2009 under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, when Pocan was co-chair of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee.

Pocan also noted the bills had minimal impact on the state’s 2011-’13 deficit. At the time of the vote, fiscal analysts predicted that none of the $25 million in additional tax credits would be claimed during the two years, because the fund was flush, as we noted in an earlier item. The other bill had a $1 million price tag over the two years.

What about the other bills in the special session? Roys specified two, but also referred to a "series."

Roys did not mention the biggest tax-break bill in that session: Assembly Bill 7, a much modified version of Walker’s push to give small businesses a tax break. In the end, the bill gave both mom-and-pop businesses and large corporations an estimated collective income tax break of $33.5 million a year -- tied to how many jobs they create. It passed 60-33 in the Assembly, with only three Democrats joining the GOP majority.

Pocan did buck Walker on that one, as did Roys.

Finally, Roys said the two were aimed at helping "wealthy corporations." But neither tax credit program is limited to larger businesses.

Our rating

Roys said Pocan caved by supporting Walker’s tax breaks "for wealthy corporations" while she stood in opposition.

Pocan did vote for two bills that potentially could help large corporations cut their tax bills, so she is partially on target. But she leaves out important details that change the picture.

Pocan opposed a much bigger-ticket tax break bill in the same session, and the two he backed helped small businesses as well as large corporations. What’s more, two-thirds of Democrats in the Assembly backed the bills -- and Roys herself is a past supporter of one of the programs.

We rate her claim Half True.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

Wisconsin Eye, video of Kelda Roys’ press conference, July 9, 2012

Phone interview with Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, July 10, 2012

Email interview with Ashton Giese, July 10, 2012

Email interview with Rick Coelho, Roys campaign manager, July 10, 2012

Phone interview with Tom Thieding, communications manager, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, July 11, 2012

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Candidates seek Baldwin’s congressional post," July 8, 2012, "Roys and Pocan exchange barbs over tax credits," July 10, 2012

Roys campaign website, "Mark Pocan failed the judgment test," accessed July 10, 2012

Roys TV ad, "Cave," July 10, 2012

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Walker signs two more business incentive bills," Jan. 31, 2011

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Roys says Pocan voted with Walker in favor of tax cuts for wealthy corporations

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