When Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker was first elected, he declared that under his leadership, Wisconsin would be open for business. He promised that his agenda of cutting taxes and fighting unions would lead to businesses knocking down the door to open up in Wisconsin.
Instead, the opposite has occurred:
According to the “gold standard” of job metrics, the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, since Walker was elected in 2011, Wisconsin has lost 150 manufacturing establishments, at a time when most other states added them.
And while Wisconsin was losing manufacturing businesses under Scott Walker’s tax cutting and union bashing leadership, right next door was Minnesota, adding manufacturing businesses while their Governor raised taxes on the rich and invested in education, healthcare, and infrastructure.
Our neighbor to the west, Minnesota—which recently surpassed Wisconsin in total jobs for the first time ever—has added 394 manufacturing establishments.
Add this to the long list of metrics by which Minnesota has been beating Wisconsin over the last eight years.
In 2010, the neighboring states of Minnesota and Wisconsin both elected a new Governor, each of which has governed for the last 8 years.
Minnesota elected Democrat Mark Dayton, and Wisconsin elected Republican Scott Walker. These two states are both upper Midwestern states with one large metropolitan area, Minneapolis/St Paul in Minnesota and Milwaukee in Wisconsin. They both have rural areas that specialize in farming, forestry, and mining. They are not exactly the same, Wisconsin is known more for its dairy industry, Minneapolis/St Paul is a larger metro area than Milwaukee, but they are similar enough that they can be used for basic comparison purposes.
So, what has each of these Governor’s done policy-wise since being elected?
Democrat Mark Dayton pushed through a $2.1 billion tax increase (mostly on the wealthy), created free, statewide, all-day kindergarten, created a $1.9 billion dollar rainy day reserve for the State’s budget, increased education funding, added more school counselors and teachers, upgraded water treatment centers, expanded Medicaid, and secured funding for expansions of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and the Mall of America in Minneapolis.
Republican Scott Walker cut taxes for the wealthy and for businesses, took union organizing privileges away from teachers, cut benefits for teachers, passed union busting right-to-work legislation for the private sector, reduced K-12 education funding, reduced funding to the State’s university system, refused Medicaid expansion, expanded the use of taxpayer money to be used for vouchers for private schools, and handed out numerous grants and tax credits to private businesses.
To say that these two Governors took opposite tracks would be an understatement.
So, let’s see how it turned out:
Total Non-Farm Job Growth since 2010:
Private Sector Job Growth since 2010:
Length of time to return to pre-recession Unemployment Rates:
Minnesota: 32 months
Wisconsin: 47 months
Drop in Long-Term Unemployed:
Overall Wage Growth:
Bottom 10% of earner’s Wage Growth:
11-20% of earner’s Wage Growth:
Median Household Income Growth:
Decrease in number of people without Health Insurance:
And these numbers don’t fully account yet for the disparities in education quality that have surely taken hold due to the divergent paths of education funding in each State, nor do they fully account for the differences in infrastructure funding that have occurred due to the differences in the healthiness of each State’s budget (Minnesota has a 4.4% debt to GDP ratio, Wisconsin has a 7.6% debt to GDP ratio, source: State Debt Ranking Percent GDP)
So, which policy track has been more successful? Increasing taxes on the rich and investing in education, health care and infrastructure? Or decreasing taxes on the rich and cutting funding to education, health care and infrastructure?
Of course, there is one business Wisconsin has gained under Scott Walker’s leadership: Foxconn. To gain that business, Scott Walker promised them $4.8 billion of taxpayer money. I guess that’s one way to prove you are open for business: pay your customers to come in. However, a business that pays its customers instead of having the customers pay them is a business that usually ends up bankrupt. And that is exactly where the State of Wisconsin is headed under Scott Walker’s leadership:
In an April article from the Capital Times, the sad state of Wisconsin’s Budget under Scott Walker was put on full display:
“In 2009-10, 11 percent of the state’s transportation revenue went to interest on its debt. Now it’s 20 percent and is projected to climb by about 1 percent each year if the state continues to borrow as it has, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
The total amount of transportation-related debt the state owes has nearly doubled over the last decade, from $2.6 billion in 2007 to $4.4 billion in 2017, according to the LFB. Transportation projects now make up 45 percent of total state borrowing, up 10 percentage points from a decade ago.”
Why has this happened? The answer should sound familiar to anyone who has been paying attention to Republican governance over the last 40 years: tax cuts and tax credits for businesses and the wealthy that were issued with a promise that a booming economy would make up for the lost tax revenue and tax credit giveaways. In short: Trickle Down Economics. It hasn’t worked in Wisconsin. It hasn’t worked anywhere it has been tried. Yet, they keep trying.
So, has giving all that money to the wealthy helped Wisconsin’s economy? Not when it comes to jobs. Wisconsin’s job growth has consistently been in the bottom half of US States under Scott Walker’s leadership.
Now, you might ask, has Wisconsin’s job growth always ranked the in the bottom half of US States? Nope.
So, Scott Walker’s tax cuts don’t seem to have helped the economy at all. If anything, they’ve made it worse. What these tax giveaways to the wealthy have most definitely affected is the ability for Wisconsin to pay for things that are used by the majority of the population, like roads and schools. Anyone who has driven in Wisconsin recently can probably provide anecdotal evidence of the sad state of the roads, but there is further evidence to back that up. From that same April Capital Times article comes this sobering assessment of Wisconsin’s roads:
“In February, U.S. News and World Report ranked Wisconsin 44th in the country for its road conditions, a slight improvement from its ranking of 49th last year.”
What has Wisconsin gotten since Scott Walker’s 2011 declaration that the State was “open for business” due to his plan to cut taxes and battle unions? An exodus of manufacturing companies, below average job growth, horrible roads, lower-paid teachers, and a budget heading towards bankruptcy. Trickle down economics. Hasn’t worked yet. Never will.