After four years in office, Walker blames state’s sluggish economy on ex-Gov. Jim Doyle and former Democratic leaders

WiG and AP reports

Visiting with Minnesota Republicans last week, Gov. Scott Walker blamed Wisconsin’s lagging economy on former Gov. Jim Doyle, the Democrat who held office before Walker took over in 2010. On the other hand, he credited Minnesota’s booming economy to former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who preceded Democrat Mark Dayton. Like Walker, Dayton began his first term in 2010.

“You’ve had the advantage of other than a two-year period of having Republicans in charge of at least one part of government for some time. Before we came into office for many years, there was a Democrat governor, a Democrat assembly and a Democrat Senate,” Walker said after the closed-door meeting.

Therefore, Walker said, it was unfair to compare the success that Minnesota has enjoyed under a Democratic governor to the relative failure that Wisconsin has suffered under his leadership.

Minnesota’s jobless rate has consistently been lower than Wisconsin’s and never climbed as high during the Great Recession. Minnesota’s unemployment rate has tumbled from above 7 percent at Gov. Mark Dayton’s first election in 2010 to 3.7 percent now.

Wisconsin has trailed the national average in private-sector job growth since six months after Walker took office. Wisconsin’s job-growth rate was higher than the national average before he took office.

Walker fell short of a signature campaign promise to create 250,000 private-sector jobs, adding instead 145,000 new jobs. Wisconsin ranked 40th nationwide in private-sector job growth in the 12-month period ending in September.

As he tours the country, Walker has boasted that new businesses are starting up in Wisconsin at a higher rate than the rest of the country and that income growth for residents exceeds the national average. But his critics point out that many of those new businesses are home enterprises created by people who can’t find decent-paying jobs.

And the most recent U.S. census data (for 2009–2013) shows Wisconsin lagging the nation in both median household and per capita income.

Walker’s closed-door session with Minnesota legislators — and later gatherings with top business leaders and a conservative group — come as he nears an announcement on a White House campaign. He’s taken all the preliminary steps toward a bid, including hiring staff and taking repeated trips to states with early primaries. He’s traveled extensively abroad in recent months to be able to lay claim that he’s familiar with world affairs.

Walker has said a formal decision would come once Wisconsin lawmakers set a new budget, probably in early June. The policy-heavy budget proposed by Walker has stirred massive opposition, including within his own party. It has already resulted in significant job losses.

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