Milwaukee County Debunks Walker’s False Debt Reduction Claim

Administrator, County Report Say Milwaukee County Debt Up 85 Percent, While Walker Repeatedly Says Debt Down 10-30 Percent

MADISON, Wis. — Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker has claimed repeatedly for the past year that he has reduced Milwaukee County’s debt by between 10 and 30 percent, but one of his own top administration officials admitted Sunday the “county debt has risen 85 percent under Walker.”

“Turns out Scott Walker’s biggest accomplishment is his biggest lie,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “Scott Walker mismanaged the pension mess and the county budget and now the county’s debt is 85 percent higher than when he took office. How can anyone believe a word he says when he’s spent the last year telling us he reduced the county debt?”

In both his official government capacity and on the campaign trail, Walker has said under his management the county has reduced its debt. He said it his state of the County address in January 2010 and repeated the lie as late as last week in his County Budget Address. Walker has also made his debt management record central in his gubernatorial campaign, including in debates and on the “Meet Scott Walker” portion of his website.

According to Sunday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “county debt has risen 85 percent under Walker, according to Cynthia Archer, the county’s director of administrative services.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/3/10]

The enormous increase in debt is due in part to Walker’s $400 million investment in a risky stock market scheme because he failed to clean up the county’s pension mess. Walker’s 85 percent debt increase is also documented in the county’s “Comprehensive Annual Financial Report” published just a few months ago. Under Walker, the county debt for every man, woman and child has risen from $606 to $1,132. [Milwaukee County Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, 12/31/09, page 190, http://www.milwaukeecounty.org/ImageLibrary/Groups/cntyDAS/2009_CAFR.pdf]

Among the numerous examples of Walker’s repeated distortion of his debt records in the past year include:

  • Lowered the county debt by 10% [“Meet Scott Walker,” Walker for Governor website]
  • Since 2002, we’ve lowered our debt by 10 percent and reduced the county workforce by more than 20%. [Scott Walker State of the County Address, 1/12/10]
  • Our outstanding debt will be nearly 30 percent lower in 2012 than it was in 2002. [Scott Walker 2011 County Budget Address, 9/30/10]
  • We balanced our budget, we did it by cutting our debt, reducing the size of the government workforce, ultimately improving our bond rating, something that many others, including the state, have not done and still had a surplus last year. [Walker-Barrett Debate, 9/24/10]
  • I’m not going to over-toot our horn here, but you look at since I’ve been in office since 2002, we’ve cut our debt 10 percent…. [“For the Record,” WISC-TV, 1/29/10]
  • We lowered our debt, reduced the size of our workforce, increased the county [inaudible, probably said “bond”] rating, did all those things while creating a balanced budget even when the state has its largest deficit ever. [“On the Issues, with Mike Gousha,” WISN-TV, 2/28/10]
  • In my budgets we’ve cut our debt. In fact through 2012 our debt will be down 28%, the size of my workforce is down over 20%, my bond rating, even when the state’s bond rating went down, mine was actually improved and stabilized. [Walker at Marquette Law School, 3/11/10]
  • We did last fall. We introduced my eighth consecutive budgets without raising property levy from last year, and we did it the old fashion way: we cut our debts, we reduced the government size workforce by over 20 percent…. [Walker GOP Convention Acceptance Speech, 5/22/10]
  • I’m the only person out there, Republican or Democrat, who inherited the same sort of challenges this next governor will face and successfully cut our debt, reduce the size of our government, improved our bond ratings so you can’t pull the covers over, and actually had a surplus last year. [Walker-Neumann Debate, 8/25/10]

Walker has been caught in a number of flip-flops and misrepresentations during the past year including immigration, concealed carry, cutting 400,000 working families from BadgerCare and the smoking ban.

“Once again, Scott Walker’s been caught misrepresenting his record and his positions,” said Ross. “You can’t trust what Scott Walker is pulling out of his brown bag.”

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One Wisconsin Now is a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.