Walters: Wisconsin pre-election numbers that matter

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SOME numbers to consider before you vote Tuesday.

• 231,175.

That's the number of new private-sector jobs created in Wisconsin between the first three months of 2011 and the first three months of 2018.

Context: When he ran for governor in 2010, Republican Scott Walker promised economic development reforms that he said would create 250,000 new private-sector jobs by the end of 2015.

A report requested by Assembly Democratic Leader Gordon Hintz said Wisconsin had 2.21 million private-sector jobs in the first months of 2011 and 2.44 million jobs exactly seven years later.

Although Walker has not met the 250,000 new jobs goal he promised eight years ago, he is campaigning for a third term on what he says is the strongest Wisconsin economy in decades.

"There are more people working in this state this year than ever before," Walker said during his final debate with Democratic challenger Tony Evers.

And, Walker said, September was a record-breaking eighth straight month that Wisconsin's unemployment rate was 3% or less.

• $230 million.

That's how much would be saved in 2019, if Evers's plan to end the manufacturing and agricultural tax break for those with taxable incomes above $300,000 a year is approved. The number comes from state Department of Revenue (DOR) projections.

Evers has said he would use that savings to pay for a 10% "middle-class" income tax cut on individuals with taxable incomes of up to $100,000 and couples with taxable incomes of up to $150,000.

DOR's numbers estimate that the manufacturing and ag tax break will cost the state treasury about $248 million in tax year 2019, with 93% of that going to taxpayers with incomes of more than $300,000. That's unfair, Evers and Democratic lawmakers say.

Context: Although Evers has said limiting the manufacturing and ag tax credit would largely pay for his middle-class tax cut, the new report suggests it wouldn't.

For example, if the Evers tax cut costs $330 million, only $230 million of it would come from limiting the manufacturing and ag tax break.

Where would Evers make up the $100-million difference? He hasn't said.

• NO $246 million "savings."

Months ago, Walker claimed new policies by the state Department of Transportation (DOT) had saved $246 million that could be used to speed up or keep on schedule 67 highway projects statewide.

Context: Hintz couldn't believe that $246-million estimate, so he asked the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) to research it.

In an Oct. 10 memo, LFB came up with much lower numbers.

"DOT indicates it has realized $167.7 million in savings.However, of this amount, $130.4 million of these savings were already accounted for by the Legislature," the Fiscal Bureau concluded.

"As a result, only $37.3 million ($167.7 million minus $130.4 million) in program savings are available for advancement of project work."

For the record: Walker and Evers have both not said how they would pay for future highway maintenance and construction and end the growing reliance on borrowing.

• THE years 2006 and 2008.

The state gax tax has been 30.9 cents per gallon since 2006.

The $75 annual registration fee for cars, SUVs and light trucks has been unchanged since 2008.

Context: Walker has said he will not raise the gas tax or vehicle registration fee in his 2019-21 budget, if he is re-elected. Evers has said "everything is on the table," and - if he's the next governor - he won't reveal his highway-finance plan until Inauguration Day.

• 25,000 prison inmates.

A report last week by the non-partisan Public Policy Forum predicted that Wisconsin will have 25,000 prison inmates by mid-2021 - 6.8% more than this summer.

Wisconsin's adult prisons were designed to hold about 17,400 inmates, so the system could be 43% over capacity by mid-2021.

Having more inmates would also raise what taxpayers pay to keep them off the streets to $1.25 billion by 2021 - a 10% increase in two years.

Context: Evers has promised to fund new rehabilitation and other programs to lower the number of inmates. Walker has opposed any plan that would release "violent" criminals before the end of their prison sentences.

• TWO: Number of Democrats elected governor since 1982.

One: Number of governors who have won a third term since 1971, when the time they serve was raised from two to four years.

Steven Walters is a senior producer with the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. Contact him at stevenscotwalters@gmail.com

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