WASHINGTON -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) pledged to add 250,000 private sector jobs in the state by the end of his four-year term, and as Democrats try to recall him and throw him out of office, a central part of his message to voters has been that he has made progress in that area. But with new employment figures showing sluggish growth, Walker is placing the blame on an unlikely culprit: federal health care reform.
Recent federal data show that although the state's unemployment rate has gone down, Wisconsin has lost more jobs than any other state since Walker took office.
As Craig Gilbert at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently wrote, "In Walker's first year in office (ending last December), Wisconsin had the 49th worst record for private-sector job growth, losing 9,700 jobs. But preliminary January numbers ... were the best of any month so far of the Walker tenure: private-sector jobs rose by 15,700. That now puts the state in the positive column for net private job growth during the governor’s first 13 months, with 6,000 jobs added. Still, it’s a long way from the governor’s campaign promise of 250,000 new private-sector jobs during his first term.
In an interview with a local CBS affiliate in Wisconsin, Walker blamed the Affordable Care Act for the slow growth.
"From what I hear overwhelmingly across the state, from small business owners, is tremendous concern about the impact it's going to have on those small businesses," he said. "It's probably if not the top, it's one of the top, things I hear that has made small business owners hesitant to add more jobs, is their concern about what the true impact will be."
But Walker has attributed slow job growth to many factors other than federal health care reform in the past. On Sept. 28, Wisconsin Public Radio reported that Walker was looking at whether individuals were choosing to collect unemployment compensation for as long as they could rather than actively search for a job.
"You hear employers ... say, I get people who come a week or two after their unemployment runs out, come out and try and get a job," Walker said at the time.
Earlier, Walker credited his administration's business-friendly policies with the job growth that took place in June 2011, but passed off responsibility for the job losses that occurred the following month.
When Walker was asked why he took credit for job growth but refused to take responsibility for job losses, the Journal Sentinel reported that he attributed the losses to the debt ceiling debate at the federal level and the possible lawmaker recalls at the state level. Walker said there was "incredible uncertainty both at the federal level -- in terms of the debt ceiling and all the tension of that, and the negative impact that had on the economy -- combined with July and August, when you saw the height of the recall commercials."
Walker's Department of Workforce Development attributed the decline in jobs to "challenges in the national and global economy" in November 2011 and "wild market fluctuations during the debt ceiling negotiations, the European debt crisis and other factors" in August 2011.
Walker's office did not return a request for comment.