GREEN BAY — Creating new jobs is Wisconsin remains the key issue in the recall race for governor. Both candidates are focused on jobs, but their numbers continue to differ.
Both candidates for governor are each counting on the issue of jobs to secure them the top job of running the state. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is pushing the issue of job losses under Governor Scott Walker.
Walker counters that pointing to the lowest unemployment rate in Wisconsin since 2008. And yes, he flaunts those new positive numbers showing job increases in his first year in office.
FOX 11's Mark Leland sat down with both candidates to see how the issue of jobs and the economy are shaping this election.
From the start, "jobs" continues to be the number one issue for Walker.
"Jobs. Hands down that's what I talked about in the 2010 campaign," said Walker. "I think it's why people put their faith and confidence in me and without a doubt something I've been focused on every day since I've been in office."
The Department of Workforce Development released figures a month ahead of schedule showing some 23,000 new jobs created in the state during 2011. The figure is based on numbers reported from 160,000 employers across the state. Previously the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed nearly 34,000 jobs lost last year, based on an employment survey of just 55,000 employers.
Walker's opponent calls the new numbers "100 percent political."
"I think he knows he can't defend his record and that's why he cooked the books and came up with this whole new set of numbers that the state has never used before," said Barrett.
But if the latest numbers are correct, we asked Barrett; doesn't that weaken your challenge of Walker?
"But your question answers the question. If these numbers can be verified. He knows, you know, I know they can't be verified before the election," stated Barrett.
In fact, state officials say they received word Wednesday from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirming Walker's positive jobs numbers.
Each candidate's plan for jobs is the same as what they put forward in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
"We're working off the same plan," said Barrett.
That plan aimed at job creation in 2010 focused on targeted tax cuts for job creators, streamlining government regulations, establishing a venture capital fund to assist start up entrepreneurs, and consolidating employment efforts into a new Governor's Office of Economic Development.
As for Walker he says employers have embraced his newly created the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a public-private venture aimed at assisting business development around the state.
Walker's plan for his first term also included tax cuts, especially for small business, easing the cost of regulations on business, and eliminating costly and frivolous lawsuits.
Walker cites statistics that a couple years ago 10 percent of employers were looking to expand. Now he says 94 percent report they are looking to grow.
"I think we're headed in the right direction," said Walker.
Walker cites the recent endorsement of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper as an indicator of whose jobs plan is working.
"The mayor's hometown newspaper endorsed me because, while they viewed me as sometimes being aggressive, the mayor it pointed out in the city of Milwaukee doesn't have a true economic development plan," said Walker.
We asked Barrett where he would create jobs.
"I think you work with small business. The majority of the jobs are going to be small business jobs. I see agriculture as important, I think bio-tech, I think high tech, I think venture capital," answered Barrett.
Walker says he hasn't given up on his own plan to set up a venture capital fund, despite legislative roadblocks. And he agrees small business is where the bulk of the jobs will be created.
It's at those small businesses where Walker has been making campaign stops highlighting jobs already being added.
But are those jobs being added fast enough for voters? The recall election is June 5th.
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