MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday he won’t make another job-creation promise like he did four years ago, a pledge he’s all but certain not to fulfill by the end of his term in December.
Walker said his economic development plan to be unveiled in coming weeks will be a detailed proposal about how to grow quality jobs, but it won’t include a specific promise of how many jobs would be created.
“It’s not only about the number of jobs, it’s about the quality of jobs,” Walker said when asked whether he would be making a new pledge. He spoke after an appearance at Forte Research Systems in Madison, a clinical research software developer that plans to add 55 jobs over the next three years.
Walker’s central campaign promise during his 2010 run for governor was that the state would add 250,000 private sector jobs during his first term. Through July, about 103,000 jobs have been added.
Walker’s Democratic opponent for re-election, former state Commerce Department secretary and Trek Bicycles executive Mary Burke, has hammered Walker for not living up to the jobs promise. Her economic development plan, unveiled in May, does not include a specific job-creation number. Burke instead has said her goal is to produce a thriving economy that puts Wisconsin in the top 10 nationwide.
Walker should be judged on how well Wisconsin’s economy is performing compared with other states, Burke said in a statement.
“He had four years to get the job done,” Burke said. “He told us he should be held accountable. Well, he failed, and I’m confident that on Election Day voters will hold him accountable and vote for a new direction.”
Walker talked about the jobs promise during the 2010 campaign, after he won election and even during the 2012 recall.
“I want my Cabinet secretaries to have branded across their heads, ‘250,000 jobs,'” Walker said at a December 2010 meeting of the Dairy Business Association. “I want them to know their job is on the line because my job is on the line to create 250,000 jobs in the private sector.”
Walker reiterated Tuesday that he doesn’t regret making the promise.
“We aimed to have a Super Bowl-performance economy. We think we’re headed in the right direction, but we’ve still got more work to do, which is why we’re asking for four more years to do it,” he said.
Walker hoped his term would mirror former Gov. Tommy Thompson’s first four years in office, when the state added roughly 250,000 jobs between 1987 and 1991. Thompson, also a Republican, focused on holding down taxes and promoting Wisconsin as a good place to do business, an approach Walker also took.
But the latest quarterly jobs data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the measurement Walker called the “gold standard” for seeing how well he was meeting his promise, showed Wisconsin ranked 37th in private-sector job growth in 2013.
Walker has pointed to other more positive numbers to show the state’s economy is improving, including the 5.8 percent unemployment rate that’s the lowest since 2008.
The latest Marquette University Law School poll released last week showed Burke and Walker are about even with nine weeks to go before the Nov. 4 election.