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Walker: Burke wrong on wage hike, lacks jobs plan

  • Article by: SCOTT BAUER
  • Associated Press
  • February 5, 2014 - 3:15 PM

MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday that his Democratic challenger Mary Burke is calling for increasing the minimum wage because she doesn't have a job-creation plan.

Walker opposes raising the minimum wage, while Democrats in Wisconsin and nationally support it. Last month, Walker accused minimum wage hike supporters of "political grandstanding" and being part of a "misguided political stunt."

On Sunday, Burke altered her position on the minimum wage to align it with that of Democrats nationally who are calling for increasing it from $7.25 to $10.10. Previously, Burke supported only a 35-cent increase.

The issue has become a hot one in the campaign as it marks one area where Walker and Burke clearly differ.

Burke held a conference call Wednesday to promote raising the minimum wage, saying it would help people get off government assistance, boost worker morale and help minimize employee turnover.

As for Walker's charge that she doesn't have a jobs plan, Burke promised to unveil one in the next month or two. But she said a higher minimum wage goes hand-in-hand with creating jobs because it would inject more money into the economy, in turn stimulating job creation.

"It's what I would expect from a career politician to take the emphasis off what the actual issue is," Burke said. "This is something that is good for the Wisconsin economy and strengthens people's ability to support themselves and their families while ensuring we are creating good paying jobs."

While Walker is firmly in line with Republicans nationally on the minimum wage, he is at odds with the majority of Wisconsin voters, based on a Marquette University poll from last month. It found that 62 percent of Wisconsin residents favor raising the minimum wage.

That same poll had Walker leading Burke 47 percent to 41 percent.

Walker said the best way to raise wages in the state was to help employers create more better-paying jobs. He's previously said raising the minimum wage would actually lead to lower-paying jobs being eliminated, an argument that Burke discounted.

"I think increasing the minimum wage leads to people being able to support themselves and their families, and we can do it in a way that's not going to hurt job creation," Burke said on Sunday when she came out in support of a higher wage.

Walker said Wednesday, in response to questions from reporters, that Burke was pushing the minimum wage issue because she has yet to release a jobs plan.

"That's what happens when you don't have a jobs plan," Walker said of Burke's calling for raising the minimum wage. "You pretend to have one by pointing to something like that. We have a jobs plan. We've been implementing it. We'll continue to implement it."

Walker, in his first run for office in 2010, promised the state would add 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of this year. But the state is on pace to only come about halfway toward that promise, and the most recent data showed Wisconsin ranked 37th in private sector job growth through June.

Walker said he would announce his jobs plan for a second term this spring.

© 2014 Star Tribune