As he prepares to leave office, Scott Walker's record on the Truth-O-Meter

Republican Scott Walker served two terms as Wisconsin's governor. He leaves office in January 2019, having lost a bid for a third four-year term. (Michael Sears/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Republican Scott Walker served two terms as Wisconsin's governor. He leaves office in January 2019, having lost a bid for a third four-year term. (Michael Sears/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

The launch of PolitiFact Wisconsin occurred around the same time Scott Walker’s political career was launched to a statewide and, later, a national level.

When the fact-check feature debuted in September 2010, Walker, then the Milwaukee County executive, was locked in a battle with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in the race for governor.

Walker, a Republican, defeated Barrett, a Democrat. Walker then went on to survive a recall election in 2012 and win re-election in 2014. Seeking a third term in November 2018, he was defeated by Democrat Tony Evers, the state schools superintendent.

Walker also ran briefly for the 2016 GOP nomination for president.

All of which — along with protests in 2011 over Walker’s controversial collective bargaining legislation — has made Walker the most fact-checked politician by PolitiFact Wisconsin. He will leave office in January 2019.

Here’s the breakdown on the Truth-for-Meter for Walker’s 196 fact checks:

True: 13 percent
Mostly True: 22 percent
Half True: 19 percent
Mostly False: 19 percent
False: 21 percent
Pants on Fire: 6 percent

And here are some highlights:

Looking ahead: Evers as governor

Says Tony Evers will "raise property taxes, raise income taxes and raise gas taxes by as much as a dollar a gallon."

Our rating: Half True.

Evers pledged during the campaign to eliminate a Walker-era manufacturing and agriculture tax credit. So, that will result in higher income taxes for those who have taken advantage of the credit.

On property taxes, Evers acknowledged that his proposed budget for the state Department of Instruction could result in higher property taxes in some school districts and lower levies in others. By lifting revenue limits, however, Evers would be allowing school districts to increase property taxes.

And while Evers said he is open to raising the gas tax, he hadn’t said he would seek any particular increase and flatly denied that it would be $1.

Moreover, while Evers is open to raising taxes, it's not across-the-board, at least in the case of property and income taxes.

Says Tony Evers "wants to cut Wisconsin's prison population in half, a dangerous plan that today would mean releasing thousands of violent criminals back into our communities."

Our rating: Half True.

During the campaign, Evers stated that a 50 percent reduction is a goal. But he had not put a time frame on achieving that — a crucial factor in determining whether inmates of convicted of violent crimes would have to be released.

Experts say a 50 percent reduction over a relatively short period, say a few years, would require the release of inmates convicted of violent crimes. But some say it’s possible to cut the population in half, perhaps over 10 years, without the release of any violent offenders, or at least not thousands of them.

Walker’s accomplishments as governor

Says he made "a record investment in schools."

Our rating: Mostly False.

Walker referred to the $11.5 billion being spent on kindergarten-through-12th grade schools in his 2017-’19 state budget. In raw dollars, that is a record in Wisconsin. But inflation, of course, is crucial in measuring dollars over time. On that score, seven state budgets spent more on schools than Walker’s current budget does.

"Since taking office, we have enacted more than $8 billion in cumulative tax relief."

Our rating: True.

The state’s official nonpartisan budget scorekeeper put the figure -- since Walker took office in 2011 and through the current state budget that runs through mid-2019 -- at $8.47 billion.


"We took Wisconsin from the Bottom 10 for business to the Top 10."

Our rating: Mostly False.

When Walker made that claim, in mid-2017, site selection professionals said they had seen improvements in Wisconsin’s business environment, but noted there was no consensus on how to define and rank the business climate between states.

Walker’s claim was made broadly and without attribution even though it referred to just one of many rankings that attempt to quantify data and perceptions on states’ business environments. It is the only prominent national ranking to rank Wisconsin in the Top 10 aside from an index that focuses narrowly on small businesses.

"I'm the only governor in America ... who signed a law that says there needs to be an independent investigation any time there's a death of someone in police custody."

Our rating: True.

Walker signed a bill in April 2014 that required an independent investigation into police-related killings. As of mid-2015, when he made the statement, no other state had such a law.

Fundamental changes made to the language describing the Wisconsin Idea in the University of Wisconsin System's mission statement were the result of a "drafting error."

Our rating: Pants on Fire.

In fact, Walker’s administration had insisted to UW System officials on making the changes, giving detailed instructions on passages to be removed from state law. And eventually Walker himself acknowledged that the UW System had objected to the changes before his budget was put into final form.

Thomas Jefferson, $1 sweater, his student records

Says Thomas Jefferson said "that government is best which governs least."

Our rating: False.

While it may match closely with Jefferson’s views, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation listed the quote as one of the many that are mistakenly attributed to Jefferson.

Says he "paid one dollar for" a sweater at Kohl’s.

Our rating: True.

Based on markdowns and the availability of "Kohl’s cash," a sort of coupon, Walker could have easily gotten a sweater he wore on the presidential campaign trail for $1 out-of-pocket.

"I unsealed my records" at Marquette University.

Our rating: False.

The reference was to his student records at the Jesuit college in Milwaukee. In fact, he had taken only the very limited step of authorizing the school to confirm that he was in "good standing" during his time at Marquette and that he voluntarily withdrew.