With December 2009 unemployment estimates at 8.7 percent, Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker is vowing to bring 250,000 jobs and 10,000 businesses to the state by 2015 if he is elected in November.
The Milwaukee County executive announced his plans last week during a candidate forum in Madison, which Democratic candidate and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett also attended.
Walker’s current ideas aren’t specific, but as he continues to tour the state and gather information from citizens, economic advisers and business representatives, the plan will come into focus, said Jill Bader, a spokeswoman for the Walker campaign.
She said the plan will operate under six guiding principles, which include improving education, reducing health care costs, investing in infrastructure, ending frivolous lawsuits and — as has been his goal as county executive — reducing tax rates and government regulations.
“When you get the government out of people’s pocketbooks … jobs will come,” Bader said.
Mike Tate, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, is skeptical of what he calls “outrageous claims,” and said there is a vast difference between Walker’s rhetoric and Wisconsin’s reality.
“This candidate has done zero in his career to create private-sector jobs,” Tate said during a conference call with reporters.
Tate pointed to Walker’s record as county executive, saying Walker opposed investments in high-speed rail, turned down federal stimulus dollars and refused to cooperate with the Milwaukee 7 regional economic development group.
By contrast, Barrett has worked with M7 to save and create 2,000 private-sector jobs with C&D Technologies, Republic Airways and Ingeteam, Tate said.
But Bader said Republic Airways may not have chosen to come to Milwaukee had it not been for infrastructural improvements at and around General Mitchell International Airport, which is the responsibility of Walker and county government.
Walker’s hands-off approach to government also attracted GE Health Care and 2,000 jobs to Wauwatosa, she said.
Mark Neumann, Walker’s opponent in the Sept. 14 Republican primary, is also skeptical of Walker’s jobs plan.
“If Scott Walker had a plan to bring jobs to Wisconsin, he should have implemented it in Milwaukee some time during the last eight years,” Neumann said in a statement.
Scot Ross, the executive director of liberal economic advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, said 250,000 new Wisconsin jobs would effectively drop the state’s unemployment rate to zero.
According to preliminary numbers from Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development, there were approximately 250,900 people unemployed in the state as of last December.
“Instead of coming up with a detailed economic recovery plan, Walker simply pulled a number out of a hat, and his choice of a number reveals how little he knows about the Wisconsin economy,” Ross said in a statement.
Though the number is large, such job growth in a five-year period is not unprecedented. Walker is pointing to job growth numbers achieved under Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson. The state saw an increase of approximately 258,300 jobs between 1985 and 1990 and a jump of about 233,300 jobs in the following five-year period.