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Reality Check: Walker ad offers few specifics

By Jessica Arp, jarp@wisctv.com
Published On: Apr 30 2014 08:07:42 PM CDT
Updated On: May 01 2014 12:19:13 PM CDT

Gov. Scott Walker spends a full minute in his first ad laying out why the state is better off under his leadership, but some of his claims need a second look.

MADISON, Wis. -

Gov. Scott Walker spends a full minute in his first ad laying out why the state is better off under his leadership, but some of his claims need a second look.

With sweeping music and smiling faces, Walker’s first ad of the campaign makes the case that he brought the state back.

"Wisconsin has turned around," the ad said. "The deficit is gone. Taxes are lower. And more people have gone back to work."

News 3 finds these claims need clarification, in part because they're not specific enough.

The first claim News 3 looked in to is the deficit. By law, the governor has to balance the budget, and in both cycles, Walker did. There’s even a projected surplus at the end of two years.

But there’s another kind of budget issue called the structural deficit, which projects what revenue and expenses will look like two years from now.

The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said the governor increased that projected deficit to more than $800 million by offering tax cuts, but Walker believes tax collections will eventually be high enough to eliminate that deficit as well.

Then what about the tax cuts he implemented?

Income taxes are lower because Walker signed into law two sets of income tax cuts that total just more than a $200 break for the average filer.

Walker also signed two property tax cuts into law, one last year and another this year. The most recent tax cut may lower taxes by $130 in December, but it’s likely your last property tax bill went up. That’s because property tax bills are largely made up of school, city and county taxes, which have seen state funding stay flat or only slightly increased. That means, if their expenses go up, or they want to spend more, they can raise taxes, which happened last year in most school and municipalities in the area.

Then News 3 investigated Walker’s jobs claim.

By most estimates, the state has created just more than 100,000 jobs in four years. That’s short of the 250,000 jobs Walker promised in ads during his 2010 campaign.

“Unemployment is below the national average, and we’re investing in worker training to prepare people for the jobs that are available,” the ad said.

News 3 finds this is true. The national unemployment rate is 6.7 percent. Wisconsin’s is 5.9 percent. The state did put $15 million toward worker training programs, some of which are still getting up and running.

“Less dependence on government, more dependence on individual hard work and pride,” the ad said. “And thanks to Gov. Walker, Wisconsin is back on.”

While the governor promotes less dependence on government, the farmer from Burlington seen in the ad was requesting disaster assistance for his farm during the drought in the picture, and that farmer has received more than $1 million in federal farm subsidies over the years.

A spokeswoman for the governor said he’s proud to appear with the farmer, and that 60 percent of state farms get these subsidies.

If you have an idea for a Reality Check, email it to us.

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