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Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014

Did Walker Put $100 Million in Worker-Training Programs?

You Be The Judge

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Welcome to the second installment of You Be The Judge, where our team of independent fact-checkers looks at a claim, puts it in context, goes beyond the carefully worded claim to break down the issues, presents all the facts and then lets you be the judge on whether it holds water. 

 

Did Walker Put $100 Million in Worker-Training Programs?

This week we’re evaluating a new campaign claim by Gov. Scott Walker that he has invested $100 million in worker-training programs. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s PolitiFact found his claim “Mostly True,” its second-highest rating. To be sure, it’s a claim intended to show that the governor is doing something about Wisconsin’s poor job growth that trails most of the nation and all of the Midwest. 

But is the claim “Mostly True” or does it miss the mark? Let’s take a look and then you be the judge. 

Before we start looking into the worker training investments in Walker’s most recent budget—and there have been some—we must determine an accurate baseline. Instead of starting at $0 and working our way up, we are going to examine the entirety of Walker’s record on investing in technical colleges and worker-training programs. After all, if you owe your friend $50 and pay her back $100, would you be up $100? Of course not. You’d be up $50. 

So this examination correctly starts with the cuts in Walker’s first budget, which aren’t under dispute. Even PolitiFact themselves rated “True,” their highest rating, the claim that Walker’s first budget enacted the steepest cuts to education in our state’s history, which included a 30% reduction in funding for technical colleges—a $71.6 million cut. 

The primary mission of the tech college system is occupational education and training. Of course they also provide general education and career counseling services, but all with the same aim—training the workforce of the future. Some technical college officials have cited Walker’s signature Act 10 legislation that stripped collective bargaining rights from public employees as having eased the pain of the governor’s cuts; however, that one-time “savings” merely shifted the burden to workers and didn’t erase the cuts. 

That means the governor is off to a rocky start, down $71.6 million. So his total investments in worker-training programs need to total nearly $172 million for this claim to hold true. 

Let’s start adding it up.  

n Walker offers as evidence several initiatives totaling more than $100 million. The first is 2013 Wisconsin Act 139, which transfers $35.4 million from one part of the budget into workforce training programs administered by the Department of Workforce Development. Not all of the money goes to technical colleges and businesses administering worker training, but enough of its does that this checks out so we’ll give the governor credit for it.

n Now we’re only $36.2 million in the hole. Let’s keep looking. Walker also cites $4.21 million in additional money for the state’s vocational rehabilitation program. This checks out, so we’re down to $31.99 million in the hole.

n The next claim is 2013 Wisconsin Act 9, which provides $20 million for worker training. Of that, $15 million is actually in grants to public and private organizations to administer jobs training with the remaining $5 million covering program costs. But programs have costs, so we’ll count it all.

Those three items add up to $59.61 million or $40.39 million short of the governor’s claim. If you subtract the $71.6 million that he initially cut from worker training and you are actually seeing a cut of $11.99 million for worker training rather than an increase of $100 million.  So what does he claim next?

Here’s where it starts to get dicey. By our count, Walker is still down a total of $11.99 million or up $59.61 if you forget about all the cuts that he made in his first budget.

The next two programs are questionable as to whether they are worker training. The first one is a $22.5 million allocation for the University of Wisconsin to administer “incentive grants.” Not all of this money goes to worker training, and none of it goes to the technical college system; this largely invests in college affordability and advanced degrees at the UW.

The other claim is for $31 million to carry out a requirement that modifies the state’s policies on food assistance for the needy. This funding goes largely towards new staff to impose work requirements on certain adults receiving federal food benefits—hardly a worker-training program.

If you look at the worker training monies that the governor added and subtracted during his time as governor you either come up with a net cut of $11.99 million or if you add the money for the UW program and the money for the food assistance program and call that worker training money, you have an increase of $41.51 million. Or if you ignore all of the governor’s cuts to worker training and add in the money for the UW system and the food assistance program, you can actually get the number above the $100 million mark.

Where does this leave us? Much like with the governor’s progress on his promise to create 250,000 new jobs, we’re falling short. Walker has allocated some funding to job training to cover his first budget’s steep cuts to the technical colleges, but the big picture is, with Wisconsin ranked dead last in the Midwest on job creation, it just isn’t enough.

Did Scott Walker invest $100 million in worker training programs, and even if he did, was it enough? You be the judge.