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Mary Burke speaks to the media on Jan. 25, 2005, after then-Gov. Jim Doyle (background) announced he had named her his commerce secretary. Mary Burke speaks to the media on Jan. 25, 2005, after then-Gov. Jim Doyle (background) announced he had named her his commerce secretary.

Mary Burke speaks to the media on Jan. 25, 2005, after then-Gov. Jim Doyle (background) announced he had named her his commerce secretary.

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher March 16, 2014

Wisconsin GOP says Mary Burke, Scott Walker's challenger, was responsible for state budget when she served as a Cabinet secretary

With a page on its website, the Wisconsin Republican Party claims Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke uttered four lies.

We’ve already rated a version of one of the claims, about Burke’s service on the Madison School Board.

And we rated versions of two claims regarding her time as state commerce secretary under Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s predecessor, Democrat Jim Doyle.

We were struck by the final statement -- that Burke "says she’s on the side of the middle class," but that "Burke’s 2007-'09 state budget had a tax hike of $1.8 billion -- costing every man, woman and child in the state an extra $310."

Burke’s state budget?

Was she governor?

Asked for backup to the claim, state GOP spokesman Jesse Dougherty said Burke created the Commerce portion of the 2007-’09 budget; worked with Doyle "on his final product"; and promoted the overall budget.

As we found in rating a similar claim by the state party in February 2014, Burke was responsible for and submitted the Commerce portion of Doyle’s overall 2007-’09 budget. We also found that she spoke out enthusiastically in favor of the overall plan, saying it "identifies our priorities for success."

But to call it "Burke’s budget" is something different.

The GOP might as well have called it Frank Busalacchi’s budget (he was Doyle’s transportation secretary at the time) or Kevin Hayden’s budget (Doyle’s health and family services secretary).

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For that matter, when Doyle’s 2007-’09 budget proposal was introduced it exceeded $57 billion, with the Commerce Department getting about  $413.7 million, or less than 1 percent of the total.

In Wisconsin, the state budget is set by elected officials, not appointed Cabinet secretaries. The governor submits a budget. The Legislature, typically after making changes, adopts the budget. Finally, the governor signs the budget into law.

As for the rest of the claim, that the budget raised taxes by $1.8 billion, Doyle’s proposed budget did seek a total revenue increase of nearly $1.8 billion -- $1.37 billion in taxes and the rest in fees. Wisconsin's total population was about 5.67 million at the time, so the total increase in taxes and fees would have been about $310 per person.

But, while the figures are essentially correct, the thrust of the claim is an attack on Burke.

And to say Doyle’s budget was hers goes too far.

Our rating

The state GOP said "Burke's 2007-'09 state budget had a tax hike of $1.8 billion -- costing every man, woman and child in the state an extra $310."

The figures are basically on target, but the real target of the party’s claim was Burke. And to put a governor’s entire state budget on an appointed Cabinet secretary is a misfire.

We rate the statement False.

To comment on this item, go to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's web page.

Our Sources

Wisconsin Republican Party, "Millionaire Mary Burke: Pants on Fire" web page, accessed March 13, 2014

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "State GOP says Burke drafted and promoted state budgets that were fiscally irresponsible," Feb. 19, 2014

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Gov. Scott Walker says the policies of Democrat Jim Doyle cost the state 133,000 jobs," Sept. 18, 2013

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "GOP says Mary Burke, candidate for governor, has tax-and-spend record as school board member," Oct. 10, 2013

Email interview, Wisconsin Republican Party communications director Jesse Dougherty, March 12, 2014

Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, memo, March 9, 2007

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Wisconsin GOP says Mary Burke, Scott Walker's challenger, was responsible for state budget when she served as a Cabinet secretary

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