Ever since he took on Wisconsin's teachers unions and denied them collective bargaining rights, Republican Gov. Scott Walker has been Public Enemey No. 1 for public-sector unions all over the country. Walker faces a recall election on June 5th and may well be chased out of the governor's mansion after just one year in office.
Is Walker the heartless budget-cutter his opponents claim - slashing spending, cutting taxes, and driving Wisconsin's economy into a sinkhole?
Hardly. Here are three lies at the heart of the Wisconsin Recall.
Lie #1: Gov. Walker Cut Spending
Gov. Walker has cut the rate at which Wisconsin's state budget is growing, but he hasn't actually cut spending. In fact, the state's biennial budget is scheduled to increase by about 3 percent on Walker's watch, rising from $62.6 billion (2009-11) to $64.3 billion (2011-13).
A big reason for that bump is that Walker's budget includes a historic increase in state spending on Medicaid, after the federal government cut its contribution to the state-run health insurance program for the poor.
Walker has been widely vilified for a 7 percent cut in state aid to schools over two years, which he says will be paid for by cost-saving measures such as requiring teachers to kick in more for their pensions and healthcare.
But the bottom line is that Walker hasn't actually cut overall state spending.
Lie #2: Gov. Walker Slashed Taxes
Gov. Walker's tax cuts will save Wisconsonites about $136 million dollars[*] in the next fiscal year, which is just 1 percent of the total tax money the state collects.
It's not like Wisconsin is some sort of under-taxed haven. In 2009, the Tax Foundation ranked Wisconsin as having the fourth-highest combined state and local tax burden in the country. If cutting taxes and letting individuals spend their own money is a way to spark economic activity, Wisconsin still has a long way to go.
Lie #3 Gov. Walker Destroyed Jobs
Walker's supporters are pointing to another jobs survey that shows an increase of 23,000 jobs over the same period.
Whichever's more accurate, these numbers represent neither catastrophe nor triumph since they account for less than 1 percent Wisconsin's labor force.
One thing that both sides can agree on is that Wisconsin's unemployment rate of 6.8 percent is well below the national average of 8.1 percent.
There's no doubt that Wisconsin's economy has plenty of room for improvement. That'll only happen if Gov. Walker can get serious about cutting taxes and spending.
[*]: The Wisconsin's Legislative Fiscal Bureau's June 2011 tally of Walker's tax cuts was completed before passage of Act 212, which brought an additional tax reduction of $1.3 million next fiscal year.
Written by Jim Epstein and Nick Gillespie.
About 3.30 minutes.
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