Reality Check: Debate statements need context

Reality Check: Debate statements need context

In a debate Friday night, Gov. Scott Walker and challenger Mary Burke defended their positions and went on the attack.

Along the way they made some statements News 3 put through a Reality Check.

“This spring we lowered property taxes and income taxes again so a typical family will see an extra $322,” Walker said at the debate.

News 3 finds this needs clarification. The governor did sign into law a combination of income and property tax cuts in the last session. The property tax cuts were estimated to save $131 on the median homeowner’s tax bill and income tax cuts would save the average family in the state between $185-$200.That would get us near or above the $322 mark for the average property-owning family. That said, those making less would get less of a cut and renters wouldn’t get any of the property tax savings.

“His approach isn’t working,” Burke said at the debate. “The typical Wisconsin family has actually seen their real income drop by nearly $3,000 in the last four years.”

News 3 finds this also needs clarification. It depends on how you define “real income.” The median household in Wisconsin is actually making $51,467, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2009, that average household income was $49,993.

However, when you factor in inflation that family is about $3,000 worse off than it was four years ago. Census bureau figures show the 2009 income indexed to inflation is $54,210. Said more simply, income did not keep up with inflation in Wisconsin in the last four years.

“Wisconsin ranks third in the Midwest for private sector job creation from July of last year to July of this year, or fourth if you measure from August last year to August this year,” Walker said at the debate.

News 3 finds this is true. Walker is right on both sets of recent monthly numbers taken during each of those snapshots of time. But when you look at the most reliable numbers, called the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, from the beginning of Walker’s term to March 2013, when those numbers are available, Wisconsin actually ranks last among Midwest states for private sector job growth.

“Gov. Walker cut taxes for those at the top while raising them for working families and making the biggest per-pupil cuts to education in the entire country,” Burke said during the debate.

News 3 finds this needs clarification. Walker did cut income taxes this year, with the largest portion of those tax cuts did go to those making $100,000-$150,000 a year. But earners across all income levels got some portion of their bill cut as part of that tax cut measure. The governor also reduced the earned income tax credit in his first budget, which reduced a tax refund that many low-income families receive.

Analysts at Politifact found that experts seemed to disagree as to whether the tax cuts would offset the EITC reduction.

On education, we’ve ruled this claim true before. According to the Census Bureau’s survey of school system finances, a 6.2 percent cut in 2011 was the largest in the nation.