When Governor Scott Walker took office he promised to help the private sector create 250,000 jobs. He's just about halfway through his term and so far, the numbers are not in his favor.
It would be easy to forget about campaign promises. After all, from the protests at the capitol to the recalls and seemingly endless elections, a lot has happened in Wisconsin in the last two years.
But we haven't forgotten about Gov. Scott Walker's (R-Wisconsin) often repeated pledge:
"I campaigned on creating an environment where the private sector can create 250,000 jobs over the next four years," Walker in a speech in March of 2011.
I recently sat down with the governor for a mid-term assessment.
I asked him how he would assess the current state of job creation in Wisconsin.
"It's going in the right direction, which is a contrast to when we took office," he said. "But clearly, it has to accelerate."
Accelerate? It actually needs to double. To hit his goal of 250,000 new jobs, the state would need to create an average of 62,500 jobs per year. In Walker's first year, the state created 29,800 jobs. Less than half of the pace needed. What about 2012? That's not so clear yet.
"This year, he's actually lost jobs," said State Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay). He is relying on the monthly estimates for the year from the federal government. Those estimates show that from January to October , the state lost about 2,400 jobs. But the state says those numbers are unreliable and have been off by as much as 50,000 jobs a year. Hansen doesn't buy that.
"They've worked for years," Hansen said. "They work in other states. Because we're on the bottom he says it's bad. When the numbers were good he liked them. You can pick and choose. But I trust the numbers are real."
Jeff Sachse is a numbers guy. As a regional economist with the state Department of Workforce Development , Sachse understands what goes into the numbers.
When asked if the state is up or down when it comes to jobs, Sachse replied, "We're up."
Exactly how much? We don't quite know yet. That's because the most accurate numbers don't come out right away. The estimates that come out monthly only include three-percent of employers. Sachse says the better numbers come from what's called the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages which includes 96-percent of employers. But they're not as timely.
When will we get accurate numbers for 2012?
"Probably the summer of next year," Sachse said. "Which you can imagine is something of great concern to the administration."
According to the latest figures available which cover June of 2011 to June 2012 , the state created 35,379. Even with the more accurate numbers, the state is still not on pace to hit 250,000 in four years.
When asked whose fault it is that we're not on pace, Walker said, "Oh, I think there's a number of factors out there."
"We never dreamed that we'd hit it exactly, an even number, every month all the way up to 2015," he continued. "We assumed that this would be a compounding factor, kind of a snow balling effect that as more employers felt good about the economy, they'd see others and that would build. I still think that will happen. But it'll have to be at a faster pace."
Walker also blames the recall elections for causing uncertainty and the slow recovery at the national level. Still, he's not backing down from his goal.
"We're certainly going to strive for it. You don't hit high measures if you lower your expectations. I think we still have to have a strong goal," Walker said.
And if the state doesn't hit that goal, Hansen says the buck stops with Walker.
"If Wisconsin is falling short, there's got to be a reason and it's got to be in the leadership. Yes, it's his fault," Hansen said.
I asked Walker if voters should hold him accountable if the state doesn't hit his goal. He replied, "Well, I think they will. I also think they'll take into effect what the reasons are but my focus is on getting there. I'm not willing to concede that we're not going to get to 250,000 jobs by 2015. I'm completely focused on that. I'm not cocky. I'm not overly confident. I'm just saying that that's a commitment that we need to make not because it was a political promise but because that's important to put that many more people back to work in this state. That's my focus."
FOX 11 On Special Assignment will continue tracking whether the state meets that goal.
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