Holding up a newspaper with the front-page headline, "State Posts Largest Percentage Job Loss in U.S. Over Past Year," Milwaukee Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett Monday blasted Gov. Scott Walker for spending more time touring the country than bringing in jobs to the state.
At a press conference at Ingeteam, Inc., in the Menomonee Valley, the Democrat cited the recent layoffs at the train-building company Talgo as a "perfect example" of Walker's direct onslaught against Milwaukee jobs.
"The system, under Governor Walker's leadership, terminated the contract that directly resulted in that mass layoff notice," Barrett said. "(There is) a direct correlation to the state of Wisconsin ending a contract with Talgo and the layoffs that have occurred there."
In early April, Talgo announced it would lay off as many as 35 employees after the state decided not accept federal funding for passenger rail that would have prompted Talgo to build more trains for Wisconsin, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Walker campaign says Barrett 'sat silent' when jobs left
But spokeswoman for the Walker campaign, Ciara Matthews, said this is another example of the lack of leadership by Barrett.
“As he did during the debate on mining and (the Milwaukee teachers union's) request to reopen union contracts, Mayor Tom Barrett sat silent on the sidelines, completely removed from the discussion on creating solutions until after the decisions have been made," she said. "Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's failed leadership is exactly why Wisconsin voters have twice rejected him as governor, and why they will do so again this year."
Barrett said he doesn't need someone letting Wisconsin jobs head to other states, he needs a partner in Madison to help create jobs here.
"So, am I frustrated by it?" Barrett asked. "You bet I'm frustrated by it. But I'm frustrated because I do not have a partner."
However, Matthews said Barrett has had support from Madison already.
"He really had a friend in Scott Walker when he used the governor's reform to save the city of Milwaukee $19 million," Matthews said, referring to the provisions of the state's new collective bargaining bill that allowed Milwaukee and other municipalities to save on employee benefit and pension costs.
Flashback to Walker's county executive days
In 2010, Barrett put out a 67-page plan and several weeks later, Walker, who was Milwaukee county executive at the time, put out a 68-page plan. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the 68-page plan was created by one of Walker's aides, but Barrett said that joke isn't so funny anymore.
"It was a joke to him in 2010, and it's a very sad joke on the people of this state right now when they see how he has treated this," Barrett said.
Barrett cited the large job losses in Milwaukee as stemming from Walker's time as county executive. He said it was Walker's lack of leadership and stronger interest in traveling and giving speeches than bringing jobs to Wisconsin that's led to the job losses today.
"It's quite ironic that he's talking about the performance of Milwaukee during the very years that he was leading Milwaukee," Barrett said. "But he wants the people in this state to forget that he ever had ties to Milwaukee."
However, Matthews says it's Barrett who needs to be accountable.
“Instead of pointing fingers at other people for his city’s job loss and his failure as a leader, Tom Barrett would do well to accept responsibility for the fact that he has yet to develop or implement any viable plan to help address Milwaukee’s unemployment crisis," she said. "Maybe if he were spending more time on his duties as mayor rather running a third campaign for governor, Milwaukee wouldn’t be in the mess it is.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says Milwaukee's unemployment rate in March was at 10.5 percent, 2.3 percent more than the national unemployment rate at 8.2 percent for the same timer period. But Barrett says that's because fewer people are even looking for jobs anymore.
"People drop out of the job market," he said.
Barrett confident about primary
In May, Barrett will face off against Kathleen Falk, former Dane County executive; state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma); and Secretary of State Doug La Follette in the Democratic primary.
"Do they want this ideological civil war that has lasted 15 months under Scott Walker to continue? Where neighbor doesn't talk to neighbor, where people are at each others throats?" Barrett asked.
When asked if he has a strong enough grassroots campaign to beat Falk, he said: "Absolutely. Yes, yes."