Introducing PolitiFact Wisconsin’s ‘Evers-O-Meter,’ tracking the campaign promises of Tony Evers

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (right) is sworn in by Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Pat Roggensack as Kathy Evers watches during the inauguration ceremony at the state Capitol Jan. 7, 2019, in Madison, Wis. (Andy Manis / Associated Press)
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (right) is sworn in by Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Pat Roggensack as Kathy Evers watches during the inauguration ceremony at the state Capitol Jan. 7, 2019, in Madison, Wis. (Andy Manis / Associated Press)

With a new governor, it’s time for a change at PolitiFact Wisconsin as well.

Introducing the Evers-O-Meter

For the eight years of Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s tenure, we tracked dozens of his campaign promises on the Walk-O-Meter. We’ll be doing the same -- and just as aggressively -- with Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat.

Here at PolitiFact, our bread and butter is the Truth-O-Meter. We use it to fact-check specific claims by political figures -- ones often made in the moment, amid the churn of news cycles or the battles of Madison.

Our promise meters are more enduring: They take the promises made by officials on the campaign trail and track progress and outcomes.

In the case of Evers, we have identified 25 promises that we will be tracking during his term.

They range from his pledge to cut middle-class taxes to his promise to increase school funding by $1.4 billion in his first two-year budget. He also made pledges to reverse Walker-era cuts to Planned Parenthood and GOP-backed changes to prevailing wage laws. He wants to increase spending on roads and early childhood education. He wants to "ban the box" and work toward cutting the prison population in half.

All are on the meter.

Evers, who gives his first State of the State address on Jan. 22, 2019, starts his time in office in a much different position than Walker did. In 2010, when Walker won the job, Republicans took control of both chambers of the Legislature at the same time.

Walker and GOP lawmakers were in sync on most topics, especially in the early years.

Evers, however, leads a divided government, with Republicans still at the controls of the Senate and Assembly. And GOP leaders have already signaled their opposition to key parts of Evers’ agenda.

How the ratings work

That brings us to an important note about the Evers-O-Meter.

We rate promises based on outcomes, not intentions or effort. So, if the GOP-controlled Legislature blocks an initiative, we will note that opposition -- but it will still be rated Promise Broken. We’ll mention the effort from Evers, but the bottomline is whether a change was made.

Here is a closer look at the ratings we use on promise meters and what each one means:

Not Yet Rated: Every promise begins here and retains this rating until we see evidence of progress — or evidence the effort has stalled.

In the Works: This indicates some progress -- such as something being introduced in a budget, or proposed as a law.

Stalled: There is no recent movement on the promise. This could be because priorities changed, a lack of money or a lack of legislative support.

Compromise: This rating applies when a resolution is substantially less than the original promise, but when there is still a significant accomplishment that is consistent with the goal.

Promise Kept: The original promise is mostly or completely fulfilled.

Promise Broken: The promise has not been fulfilled. This doesn’t mean the official didn’t try -- remember, we are rating outcomes, not intentions. A promise might fail because there was not support in the Legislative branch, due to court rulings, federal changes, or other issues.

The ratings can change whenever the circumstances change.

It's possible that the status could initially go to In the Works, but then move back to Stalled. Or from Stalled to In the Works, if things pick up again.

Three ratings reflect a final resolution: Compromise, Promise Kept and Promise Broken.

How other officials have fared

PolitiFact has been tracking the promises of presidents, governors and mayors for more than a decade, and no one has achieved everything he or she promised voters.

For instance, over his two terms, Walker finished with 58 percent of his pledges rated as Promise Kept and 26 percent Promise Broken.

Meanwhile, nearly one-in-four of President Barack Obama's campaign promises ended up broken.

The current tally on the Trump-O-Meter, which tracks President Donald Trump: Promise Kept (17 percent), Compromise (11 percent); Promise Broken (18 percent). The rest -- 54 percent -- are rated either In the Works of Stalled.

The promises we will be tracking

Here is a look at the 25 promises from Tony Evers we will be tracking.

You can find links and background material on each at:

-- Cut middle-class income taxes by 10 percent
-- Raise no taxes
-- Protect coverage for pre-existing conditions; withdraw Wisconsin from Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn Obamacare

-- Repeal or soften Act 10
-- Tighten regulations on state’s school voucher program, or end it entirely
-- Expand background checks and put in place gun restrictions
-- Increase investments in early childhood education
-- Increase school funding by $1.4 billion over two years in first budget
-- Increase spending on technical schools and UW System
-- Increase spending on local road maintenance
-- Increase spending on public transit
-- Repeal changes made to prevailing wage laws
-- Accept the federal Medicaid expansion money
-- Invest in preventive health programs that have been defunded
-- Create tax credits and other programs to boost lead abatement efforts
-- Dissolve and replace state economic development agency
-- Assure high-speed broadband access to all homes, businesses
-- Work to cut prison population in half in coming years
-- Support ending solitary confinement
-- Prohibit businesses from asking applicants about criminal histories
-- Expand funding for Planned Parenthood
-- Raise minimum wage to $15 an hour, with automatic inflationary increases
-- Create ‘blue-ribbon’ panel on agriculture, rural issues
-- Create ‘blue-ribbon’ panel on Veterans Trust Fund solvency
-- Create an Office of Inspector General to serve as independent watchdog

Greg Borowski is Deputy Editor-News, projects and investigations for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and editor of PolitiFact Wisconsin. Comments on PolitiFact Wisconsin can be sent to [email protected].