Walker or Burke: Who is Better for Students?
The November 4th election is less than two weeks away, and candidates are becoming increasingly vocal in expressing their views. Mary Burke has made it clear she refuses to acknowledge the immense amount of progress and success Wisconsin has seen in the last four years under Governor Walker’s leadership. At times, Burke has even used misinformation and questionable political rhetoric to try and distract from the fact that Wisconsin is clearly in a better place than when Governor Walker first took office.
Let’s dive into the facts. When it comes to the economy, Burke is not only denying Wisconsin’s success, she is misinforming voters. Mary Burke has spewed distorted claims all over Wisconsin. Politifact rated a recent Burke TV ad false. This ad was claiming Wisconsin has “fallen to dead last in Midwest job growth.” In reality, the job numbers tell a completely different story. Wisconsin “ranked third in the Midwest” for job growth from July of 2013 to July of 2014, adding 36,000 jobs. This statement was fact-checked by Politifact – just as Burke’s claim was, and it was rated true. On top of that, Wisconsin added 8,400 jobs in September alone – the best September for job growth in a decade. There are 110,000 more jobs now than there were in 2010 and there are over 25,000 new businesses. The unemployment rate has been steadily decreasing, reaching 5.5% this month – the lowest Wisconsin has seen in six years.
Mary Burke refuses to accept the truth that the Wisconsin economy has significantly improved these last four years. It’s eye-opening that Burke will not acknowledge Wisconsin’s economic success under Governor Walker, yet she’ll travel the state trying to persuade voters to cast their ballots for her based on her time as Commerce Secretary. This was marked by a time where Wisconsin workers suffered from 133,000 jobs lost, and 27,000 businesses that fled the state. In addition to her poor job creation numbers, her predecessor even went as far to say she was a “disaster.” Cory Nettles made this statement in an email to another top Doyle aide in 2006, referring to her ability to bring employers into our state. This is overwhelming evidence conveying Mary Burke’s tenure as Wisconsin’s Commerce Secretary was riddled with mismanagement and poor leadership.
Education is also becoming a pertinent issue, and Mary Burke has refused to admit that the colleges and universities are more affordable and accessible in our state because of Governor Walker’s leadership. College is more affordable now that Governor Walker froze tuition, and he is the only candidate that is committed to freezing it again.
As for Mary Burke, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that she won’t commit to freezing tuition. Burke supported and was a part of the Doyle Administration that increased UW tuition by approximately 18% from 2003 to 2004 (the most ever in a documented cycle) and 15% (2nd most) from 2004 to 2005. Put this into nominal terms, Wisconsin students footed more than an annual $700 dollar increase per year in tuition during that time period.
Even more troubling is that UW-Madison tuition increased by 140% from the time Doyle took office in 2003 until Governor Walker froze it in 2013. In that ten-year period, that’s a total increase of $5,389! The facts obviously show that keeping college affordable for students was not a priority for the Burke-Doyle duo. It was exactly the opposite. While these historic increases in tuition were occurring, Commerce Secretary Burke said in 2005, “I support Gov. Doyle’s positions entirely.”
Burke will implement similar policies seen in the failed Doyle Administration days, and Burke will not commit to freezing tuition. It would make perfect sense that she opposes the policy move to freeze tuition, just look at how her party views the issue. Not a single democrat voted in favor of freezing tuition in 2013 when the $1 billion UW surplus was found. Mary Burke is staying silent on this issue in order to avoid isolating her liberal base. The contrast is clear. A vote for republican reforms translates to hundreds of dollars of savings guaranteed for students for the next two years. Even if you’re attending a private school, freezing UW tuition leads to an overall more competitive marketplace for tuition costs where private schools need to lower costs and give more aid to students to stay competitive. Simply put, if democrats were in charge of this state, tuition costs would almost certainly continue to increase. Governor Walker and the republicans, however, are committed to freezing tuition.
Mary Burke cites that 41,000 students were denied grant money from the UW system and Wisconsin Technical Colleges due to Walker’s cuts in 2014. According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, this figure is true, however very misleading while looking at the big picture. Just like the economic situation that Walker inherited, this grant program was troubled due to Doyle’s administration. In 2009, during Doyle’s last year in office, 80,000 students were denied grants in this same program. Under Governor Walker this figure has truly been improving and 80,000 students being denied grant money is no longer, instead under Governor Walker the waiting list has been cut in half. But instead of building on these successes, Mary Burke frames the argument in a way that attacks Governor Walker and distorts his image. The facts don’t lie; this is undoubtedly progress – progress that Mary Burke refuses to see.
Let’s build on our successes. Mary Burke is trying to convince people that Wisconsin is worse off because of Scott Walker. If we look past the political rhetoric and misinformation, it’s clear that Wisconsin is certainly in better shape now than before Governor Walker took office. A vote for Governor Walker is a vote for a proven record that has elicited real results – real job opportunities for recent graduates, real tuition savings, and real education investments. Join me in voting for Governor Walker because Wisconsin deserves to continue the successes we have achieved under his leadership.
Written by: Ben Giles, Executive Director, Wisconsin Federation of College Republicans