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Gov. Scott Walker was one of the first Republican candidates to mix it up with front-runner Donald Trump on Wednesday, and both claimed to have the facts on their side.

Who was right?

Trump claimed that Wisconsin is “losing $2.2 billion right now.” Walker replied that three times he has balanced the state budget, including once with a $3.6 billion deficit by cutting taxes $4.7 billion, and that Trump took four major projects into bankruptcy “over and over and over again.”

Trump may be referring to a projected budget deficit of $2.1 billion, as determined by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau earlier this year that included agency budget requests. It has since been closed by Walker and the Legislature with the passage of the 2015-17 budget. State law requires the Legislature and governor to pass a balanced budget.

Walker did cut taxes $4.7 billion, but that’s not how he closed the $3.6 billion deficit in 2011 he inherited from Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. That was done mostly by making record cuts to public education and requiring public employees to contribute to their pensions and health insurance premiums.

The tax cuts mostly came in Walker’s second budget, when a resurgent economy and Walker’s austerity measures created a projected surplus. However, the surplus projection proved to be too high, which is partly why Walker had to close a $2.1 billion deficit earlier this year.

Walker closed the deficit with a $250 million cut to the University of Wisconsin System, flat K-12 funding, increased park fees, cuts across agencies, including the elimination of scientist positions at the Department of Natural Resources and less overall borrowing (though higher borrowing for roads).

Wisconsin’s nonpartisan budget analysts project Wisconsin will have a $66 million surplus in mid-2017 and face a $210 million deficit heading into the 2017-19 budget.

As for Trump’s bankruptcies, the Washington Post reported that it’s true he has never filed for personal bankruptcy, “yet missing from Trump’s retelling all four bankruptcies were high-profile embarrassments for his name-brand American empire. Amid some of the proceedings, the mogul poured in millions of dollars from his personal fortune to keep the restructurings alive.”

Planned Parenthood

In response to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush touting his anti-abortion record, Walker said “I defunded Planned Parenthood four years ago in a blue state.”

Walker’s first budget cut about $1 million a year in state funding for Planned Parenthood. In 2010, the organization received about $18 million in state and federal funding, including Medicaid reimbursement for a range of health services to low-income people.

Rep. Andre Jacque has recently introduced legislation to redirect federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood saying there is “still a lot of work that can be done.”

Restrictions on military

CNN moderator Jake Tapper asked Walker about Sen. Lindsey Graham’s statement that the U.S. must put at least 10,000 troops on the ground in Iraq to defeat the Islamic State.

Walker, who has avoided saying that he would commit more than the 3,000 troops currently stationed there, said he would “lift the political restrictions already in play.”

Those political restrictions are a reference to President Barack Obama’s promise to keep American troops out of combat.

According to the Military Times, “they are limited largely to protected bases, not any battlefield, because of White House concern that an expanded military role could lead to ‘mission creep,’ the slow expansion of involvement in another war four years after U.S. combat troops withdrew from Iraq.”

The U.S. military has engaged in 5,358 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria as of Wednesday, according to the U.S. Defense Department.


Matthew DeFour covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.