PolitiFact's Greg Borowski On Gov. Walker's New Book

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PolitiFact's Greg Borowski On Gov. Walker's New Book

Premiere Date: 
November 22, 2013

Borowski explains four PolitiFact ratings from the governor's book, "Unintimidated."

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

While Governor Scott Walker is on a national promotional tour this week with the release of his book titled "Unintimidated." Our partners at PolitiFact Wisconsin took a spin though the book to fact check some of it’s claims. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel PolitiFact editor Greg Borowski joins us now with details. Greg, thanks for being here.

Greg Borowski:

Happy to do it.

Frederica Freyberg:

Let's jump right in to a run down of the claims in the governor's book. It’s called, again, “Unintimidated, a Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge” One of the first ones that you took a look at was this, “Without our reforms, property taxes would have risen by an average $700 over the course of the biennium for the average taxpayer. Instead, thanks to Act 10, they declined on a median-valued home.” Let's talk about that statement. How did you rate it?

Greg Borowski:

Well, what we did with the book was there were a lot of statements that the governor made there that he had made before. So we went back to our previous research. On the first part of the claim, on the $700, we rated that false when it was first made because it was a hypothetical situation presented as fact. The second part about taxes going down, that is accurate. It may not be by a lot of money or for every homeowner, but on a median basis that was described, they have gone down a little bit.

Frederica Freyberg:

When the governor unveiled his property tax relief bill, he received a ‘pants on fire’ from PolitiFact Wisconsin for the same kind of thing that he apparently did with this hypothetical scenario, saying someone would save $680 over the course of four years?

Greg Borowski:

Right, yeah, and that was a case-- In that case the governor made a very specific claim and presented it as, you know, this is the money the average person is going to get in their pocket. And what he was doing was taking what would have happened had Governor Jim Doyle won another term and continued to raise taxes at a certain rate I was just so hypothetical and presented in such a shape way, like, here’s money you could spend, that we felt that was a ridiculous claim and rated that ‘pants on fire.’

Frederica Freyberg:

On Act 10, the governor’s new book say this, “My opponent in both the 2010 election and in the 2012 recall, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, used our reform to save his city millions of dollars.” Your rating on that?

Greg Borowski:

Yeah, we had looked at that a while back when, I think it was the Club for Growth had said very specifically that it had saved $25 million, which we rated mostly true. Because there are some nuances there that weren’t caught in the statement. But it certainly has saved millions. I think Tom Barrett has probably acknowledged that along the way, that it gave him a lot more flexibility to do things. That particular statement the way the governor worded it would be accurate.

Frederica Freyberg:

Another one, “When I took office in January 2011, our state faced a $3.6 billion deficit.” This was something that democrats were saying along the way, how that's bogus. That’s not true. And so you actually rated that statement true, but by way of kind of rating the democrats as discrediting that statement as false. Is that right?

Greg Borowski:

Right, yeah. The claim was that this was a totally bogus, made-up number, when what it was was the number that governors for a long time have used as a measure of how much of a gap there is between the request for spending and if things continued as they are, with where it would take to get to a balanced budget. We had rated the idea that it was a bogus claim false, and that we felt it was a reasonable number to use. It's sort of always been used by the fiscal bureau and others to measure the challenge facing whoever’s governor at the time.

Frederica Freyberg:

Finally, our last claim from the book, “The $3.6 billion deficit we inherited has turned into more than a half-billion dollars surplus.” In this one this is half-true. It seems to me either it’s true or it’s not true, but you rated it half-true.

Greg Borowski:

Well, yeah. Our half true is that it’s a statement that’s partially accurate and needs, you know, clarification and additional information. In this case, there is mixing of apples and oranges. He’s  taking $3.6 billion, which is sort of this measure of the gap and he’s comparing it to something different, the actual dollar surplus at the end of that first budget. Because of this confusion, we put it half-true. When we measured it out apples to apples, it was about-- It would have been just about as accurate had he taken an apples to apples comparison on it.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now in seeing the governor all over the national airwaves hawking this book, have additional fact check-worthy things come up that you are taking a look at?

Greg Borowski:

Yeah. We’ve got quite a few. It's great for us. First, you’ve got this massive book where everything is documented, there are new claims. And then when he goes out and talks about it, he's making more claims. We’re certainly monitoring those. We have a couple in the pipeline that we haven’t yet rated. We are interested in viewers hear something, read something. Shoot us an e-mail, politifact@journalsentinel.com and we'll take a look at it and try to get it rated on the truth-o-meter.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Great. Greg Borowski, thanks very much.

Greg Borowski:

You're welcome. 


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