Gov. Scott Walker made it only about halfway toward fulfilling his signature 2010 campaign promise — repeated in the 2012 recall — that 250,000 private-sector jobs would be created over four years under his leadership.
New figures released by the Republican’s office on Thursday show about 35,700 private-sector jobs were created in Wisconsin in 2014. Taken together with the previous three years, about 129,000 private-sector jobs were added during Walker’s term, or just over half what was promised.
Walker, a likely presidential candidate, is building his presumed campaign around his record of achievements as governor.
It was clear during his successful re-election bid last year that he would not fulfill the pledge.
Walker has said that meeting the 250,000 mark is still a goal in his second term, but he points to other figures to argue that he’s turned around the state’s economy.
The figures released Thursday also show Wisconsin’s unemployment rate hit a new pre-recession low of 4.4 percent.
Still, Walker’s Democratic opponents pounced on the latest figures to argue that his policies have been a failure.
“I know math is hard for Scott Walker, but 52 percent is a failing grade by any standard,” Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate said. “Scott Walker might only care about his next job but Wisconsinites still want the jobs he promised.”
Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick cited the drop in unemployment, and the creation of more than 129,000 jobs, in arguing Walker’s policies were working.
“This is good news for Wisconsin workers and families,” Patrick said. “Governor Walker will continue investing in our priorities to continue moving Wisconsin and our economy forward.”
The 35,736 private-sector jobs created during 2014 equates to 1.5 percent growth for the year. However, how that compares with other states won’t be known until the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ June 17 report.
Walker has been releasing the state’s figures in advance of that national report. In the previous BLS report, for the 12-month period ending in September 2014, Wisconsin ranked 40th and trailed the national average.
The latest economic news came as Walker was in Oklahoma along with other White House hopefuls for the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.
Also Thursday, the Legislature’s budget-writing committee was meeting to discuss changes to Walker’s embattled job-creation agency.
One of Walker’s first actions as governor in 2011 was to create the semi-private Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to spearhead job-creation efforts. But it has been dogged by troubles since the outset, including turnover in leadership positions and audits showing mismanagement and noncompliance with the law.
Walker last week called on the agency he leads to stop handing out loans to businesses, a move that came just before the Wisconsin State Journal reported on a $500,000 loan given to a business whose owner had given $10,000 to Walker’s campaign in 2010.
The loan has not been repaid, and Democrats are calling for a federal investigation.