MILWAUKEE - Scott Walker, a GOP candidate for governor, is taking heat from Democrats and Republicans alike for his claim that he can create 250,000 jobs in Wisconsin by 2015.
The state Democratic Party chair on Wednesday accused Walker of making an "outrageous claim" that had "zero credibility."
"You don't get to make up numbers out of thin air just because you want to be governor," Democratic Party Chair Mike Tate said on a conference call with reporters.
Tate accused Walker of doing little to create jobs in his eight years as the Milwaukee County executive, and said his party would launch a public database that tracks all the jobs Walker creates. A link to the database will be posted on the party's Web site, Tate said.
Walker's campaign responded Wednesday, saying infrastructure investments at General Mitchell International Airport while he was county executive created hundreds of employment opportunities.
"It's a stunning success story of true job creation - the hundreds of jobs created from Republic (Airways), Air Tran, and Southwest all came to Milwaukee County because we have a great airport that's successful through long-term planning and efficient management of funds," spokeswoman Jill Bader said.
Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle has claimed credit for helping persuade Republic Airways to add up to 800 jobs in the Milwaukee area by offering state tax incentives that could eventually be worth $27 million.
Bader slammed Doyle for allowing Wisconsin to "become a tax hell that's bleeding jobs monthly."
Republican Party spokeswoman Kristin Ruesch said Walker's plan - which she acknowledged was short on details - had opened "a campaign-long debate about the issue that matters most to Wisconsinites - getting our state working again."
Walker made the jobs claim Tuesday at a gathering of Wisconsin businessmen. He said he would create the jobs through six steps, which include lowering or freezing a range of taxes and limiting state regulations.
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He declined to offer specifics, saying those details would emerge during the campaign.
Walker's primary opponent, former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann, also released a statement Wednesday ridiculing Walker's claim. Neumann quoted statistics that suggest Milwaukee has one of the nation's worst records of retaining jobs.
"If Scott Walker had a plan to bring jobs to Wisconsin he should have implemented it in Milwaukee sometime during the last eight years," Neumann said.
Neumann also attacked the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. The mayor said Tuesday he planned to reduce unemployment by offering tax credits for job creation - a strategy he credits for persuading Republic Airways to keep 800 jobs in Milwaukee County and bring hundreds more after it acquired Midwest Airlines.
Neumann said Barrett must also shoulder blame for Milwaukee's economic woes, saying he and Walker had "stood by watching" as the Milwaukee area lost jobs.
Barrett's communication director, Phil Walzak, countered that the mayor has a proven record of attracting and retaining jobs, including the Republic positions.
"Tom Barrett is the only candidate in the race for governor who has worked directly with business to create and bring jobs to Wisconsin," Walzak said.
If Walker were to achieve his goal of creating 250,000 jobs, he would erase virtually all unemployment in the state. There were 250,900 unemployed people in the state in December 2009, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
That means Walker would be slashing the unemployment rate to a fraction of a percent, a "laughable" prospect, according to liberal group One Wisconsin Now.
"Instead of coming up with a detailed economic recovery plan, Walker simply pulled a number out of a hat," said Scot Ross, the group's executive director. "His choice of a number reveals how little he knows about the Wisconsin economy."
The gubernatorial primary is Sept. 14. The election is Nov. 2.