Walker, Burke spar over Wisconsin’s economy

State governor candidates spar over tax numbers, job creation in second debate in governor's race
Walker, Burke spar over Wisconsin’s economy

Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke faced off in their second and final debate in Milwaukee Friday night.

The candidates answered a number of Milwaukee-specific questions from four local reporters in the debate hosted by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, but largely stuck to many familiar lines and arguments about the state’s economy and jobs.

“Not only can we do better but we must do better,” Burke said in her opening statement of the debate.

Gov. Walker started the debate by sharing a familiar statistic he repeated throughout the hour-long discussion.

“I’ve got good news,” Walker said.  “Wisconsin created more than 8,400 new jobs last month and that was the best September we’ve seen in a decade.

The candidates were asked by questioners about where they stand on public financing for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena.

“I do not support a sales tax or a new tax that has been talked about on other projects for this particular project,” Walker said.  “What I do think we should look at is what is the actual value, not the theoretical value, that the Milwaukee Bucks as a team actually bring into the state of Wisconsin.”

“The public option should be on the table but it should be the last one,” Burke said.  “We have to protect the taxpayers here but we have to understand the impact it has on the community.  Not only the direct impact but the indirect impact on Milwaukee.”

They also differed on whether to criminalize first-offense drunk driving.

“I am on record as saying I think it should be a misdemeanor,” Burke said.  “Right now there are not enough consequences and I think we need to make sure that there are consequences.”

“For those first time offenders, criminalizing isn’t the answer,” Walker said.  “It’s going after repeat offenders and toughening up the penalties.”

But showing their sharpest elbows of the debate, the candidates answered what blame they’d take for their campaign’s failings.  The panelist singled out the Governor for missing his 250,000 jobs goal and Burke for copying parts of her jobs plan.

“I think when voters look at the contrast they’re not going to blame us or criticize us for aiming big,” Walker said.  “I think people want leaders with big goals.  I would ask them to look at the contrast between the two of us.  In the last three years we created nearly twice as many jobs as were created during the 3 years that my opponent was in charge of the Department of Commerce under Governor Doyle.”

“With the number of times that Governor Walker has mentioned Jim Doyle it’s clear that he’d rather be running against him than me,” Burke quickly responded.

She went on to answer her part of the question.

“The consultant that I used I cut ties with when I realized he had used similar ideas in other economic development plans,” Burke said.  “But economic development plans are about great ideas.”

In rebuttals, the candidates continued to take swings.

“This is one of the things people hate about politics, when somebody says one thing and does something different,” Walker said.  “When my opponent worked for Jim Doyle she said ‘I support Governor Doyle’s policies entirely.’  Now that she’s running and Governor Doyle is not so popular she’s changed.  Same thing about her jobs plan.  She said this jobs plan was based on her body of work at Harvard Business School and then we find out somebody else did that plan.”

“Governor Walker is just trying to distract from his own jobs failure and achieving the promise that he created,” Burke said.  “My jobs plan is based on my experience, but to run hundreds of attack ads against me and try to question my integrity is just trying to distract from that failure on jobs.”

The candidates also sparred over ways to make Milwaukee a safer place to live.

Walker pointed out funding put into the state budget for the shot spotter pilot project and said he’d like to expand it.

Burke hit Walker on shared revenue cuts and said she would work with law enforcement to provide city support.

To close out the evening, Walker and Burke shared final thoughts with voters.

“I want to help everyone in Wisconsin live their piece of the American dream,” Walker said.

“The failure of the last four years is far too real for far too many,” Burke said.  “My approach is different.”

Wisconsin citizens will have the opportunity to vote for governor in the Nov. 4 election.