Gov. Scott Walker last week told a National Public Radio station that a Citizen Action report showing that state job creation efforts are vastly tilted toward Republican legislative districts is “completely biased and partisan.”
“What you find are similar reports from the Department of Commerce under (former Democratic Gov.) Jim Doyle. Just because you have a significant number of business leaders more often than not happen to be Republicans versus Democrats. We measure success not by party affiliation. We measure success by whether those employers are creating jobs," the Republican governor told WXPR radio on Friday.
Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, interpreted the governor’s statement as saying that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the quasi-public jobs agency created by Walker in 2011, targets job creation in Republican districts because business owners tend to be Republican.
“The Governor’s statement is stunning,” Kraig said. “What are Wisconsin families supposed to do, pick up and move to Republican districts where they can live in closer proximity to the supposed ‘job creators’ who are receiving subsidies from the Walker administration?”
According to a WEDC report last year, the agency spent about $80 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year on grants, loans and tax credits, as well as assistance to businesses, local governments and other organizations.
WEDC spokesman Mark Maley, in an email response, blasts the notion that WEDC awards are political. "Politics has absolutely no affect at all in determining how and where WEDC grants its awards," he said.
The decision on where to locate businesses, he said, "is made by the companies themselves."
He noted that WEDC is overseen by a bipartisan board, including two Democratic legislators: Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca and state Sen. Julie Lassa.
"If there was even a hint of political favoritism in how WEDC distributes awards I'm certain (Lassa and Barca) would raise some red flags, and that hasn't happened," he said.
The February report from Citizen Action says that WEDC projections show nearly two times more WEDC-supported jobs in Republican Assembly districts than in Democratic districts.
In addition, Assembly districts of GOP leaders saw even more job creation efforts than average Republican districts. For instance, (now former) Assembly Majority Leader Bill Kramer’s Waukesha district had eight times as many jobs projected by WEDC than the average Republican district. The districts of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair John Nygren also saw projected jobs at more than the Republican average — 2,469 in Vos’ district and 2,874 in Nygren’s.
That's not to say all Democratic districts got the short end of the stick. Rep. Daniel Riemer's Milwaukee district has 1,842 jobs projected; Sondy Pope, D-Cross Plains, has 1,542 projected jobs; and the district of Jill Billings, D-LaCrosse, has 1,511 projected jobs.
Senate district job creation efforts were even more tilted toward Republicans, the report says.
“After adjusting for underlying districts, the average number of jobs projected in Republican Senate districts is more than twice that of Democratic districts,” the report states.
On the county level, the conservative-leaning counties of Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee, saw 13,656 projected jobs, while Democratic-leaning Milwaukee County had 5,771.
“The per capita disparity in jobs projected by WEDC between Waukesha and Milwaukee counties is even more striking,” the report says.
The report shows there is one projected job for every 36 residents in Waukesha county, and one job projected for every 166 residents in Milwaukee County.