OTR Interviews

New and improved jobs numbers: The key to Gov. Walker's victory in Wisconsin's recall election?

Will jobs numbers give Gov. Scott Walker momentum in Wisconsin's recall election?


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 16, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Right now, new and improved job numbers. Will those new numbers convince Wisconsin voters to keep their governor, Governor Scott Walker? Governor Walker faces a recall election in just 19 days, and today Governor Walker releasing new employment figures. They show Wisconsin actually added jobs during his first year in office, 23,000 jobs.

Governor Walker's opponents argue he hurt the state's economy with a law stripping the collective bargaining rights of some public workers. So will the new jobs numbers disarm his political opponents?

Governor Walker joins us. Good evening, sir.

WIS. GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Good evening. Good to be with you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you, sir. All right, these job numbers, you were quick to release them. They technically would be sent to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and be released by the federal government sometime the end of June, but you're getting them out now, obviously, because they show favorable numbers. Are you pleased with the 23,000?

WALKER: Well, absolutely. It is literally a 57,000-plus increase from where my opponents are claiming the numbers were last year. Their numbers were based on a sample poll of about 3.5 percent of employers in this state. They showed a job loss.

Instead, these are actual numbers taken from surveys of over 150,000- plus employers from across the state. That's 96 percent plus of all the employers in Wisconsin. And that shows real data. Those are the real numbers. They show we gained more than 23,000 jobs last year, 33,000 since I've been elected. And that's good news for everyone who cares about Wisconsin's economy because we're moving forward.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the Wisconsin -- I'm reading most of my information out of the Wisconsin -- The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and they say it's a bigger pool from which the numbers showing that you had a gain of -- a net gain of 23,000, as opposed to the older numbers, which showed a loss of 33,000.

But when you ran for office, and even as recently as last weekend at the Republican convention in Wisconsin, you promised 250,000 jobs for the state of Wisconsin. 23,000 is the right direction, but that's not 250,000. Term's not over, but what do you say about that?

WALKER: Well, we promised -- one, we promised that not -- we would create them, but the people of Wisconsin, that we'd create a better environment for the people because people create jobs, not the government. We said we'd do it by 2015 by changing the business environment, and we have done that. And it's going to compound.

You can appreciate this, Greta, as a great fan of the Green Bay Packers. When Vince Lombardi took over the Packers, the year before, they were 1-10-1. They didn't go to the world championship the first year he was the coach. They went after several years of him setting a foundation for success.

That's exactly what we've done here. We've lowered the tax burden. Property taxes went down for the first time in 12 years in this state. We changed the high cost of litigation and regulation in the state. We've done things to create a better business environment.

In fact, our Chamber of Commerce statewide did a survey two years ago, and just 10 percent of our employers thought we were heading in the right direction. Now 94 percent believe we're heading in that right direction today, in 2012, and 87 percent of them said they're going to add more jobs in 2012.

The biggest single concern they have comes up in a couple weeks. It's the recall. They don't want to go backwards to the days when we had double-digit tax increases, billion-dollar budget deficits and record job loss. They want to take our foundation we built and move the state forward. And that's what we're going to do.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, I always love a Packer reference, being an owner of one share of the Green Bay Packers. All right, now, let me tell you what Mayor Tom Barrett, who is your opponent in this recall election -- he was your opponent in 2010, when you ran for governor. This is what he said. He says, "Today's cynical announcement isn't about the best way to calculate job growth in Wisconsin. This is about Scott Walker pulling political stunts to save his own job."

So I guess he doesn't agree with you.

WALKER: This is a desperate statement from a desperate campaign. They're behind in the polls because people have seen -- when they said our reforms wouldn't work, we've saved more than a billion dollars for the taxpayers. When they said we couldn't lower property taxes, and we lowered them for the first time in 12 years. When they said we couldn't balance the budget, we now have a $154 million surplus and two consecutive years of putting money aside in the rainy day fund, the first time ever.

And now with jobs, they said that we didn't have a net gain in jobs in 2011. We have. It's a 57,000-plus job turnaround. And the facts are the facts. The mayor and any other of his supporters can say anything they want about the process, but they cannot undermine the fact that more than 150,000 employers by law are required to provide that information to the state, and then we, in turn, are provided -- are required to provide it to the federal government's Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's was what we've done for our deadline today, and the numbers are good for Wisconsin.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I should note the number's also good in a recent poll for you. You're 19 days out, but at least one of the most -- two most recent polls have you in a 6-point lead over the mayor of Milwaukee.

Here's what I think is an actually interesting poll, one that was in The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about the intensity gap. It said 91 percent of Republicans said they are certain to vote for you in recall, 83 percent of Democrats say they're certain to vote.

And I thought, after watching all the protests in Wisconsin, when they were protesting your collective bargaining, and a number of people who were appearing in Madison and taking over the capital -- I am surprised that the intensity gap between Republican voters and Democratic voters is even as it is.

WALKER: Well, I think part of it's recall fatigue. I think there's a lot of at least discerning Democrats on the margin out there who realize this is a big waste of time and money. This is $16 million almost $17 million out of the taxpayers' pockets that could otherwise be spent lowering taxes or providing relief for seniors or needy families in this state, or education. And instead, we've seen it wasted by the folks who want to rehash the last election.

Instead, we're willing -- we're ready to move the state, move on and move forward. And I think the people who came out even in the primary -- when I largely had essentially a non-competitive primary, our numbers matched that of the top two vote-getters on the Democrat side because I think there's a lot of people out there who for the last year-and-a-half have been sitting on the sidelines but now said, You know what? I don't need a bullhorn or a protest sign. I can have my voice be heard at the ballot box."

And they're showing it. My hope is they'll join us at ScottWalker.org and help get the word out between now and June 5th so we can win on that election, just like we did in November of 2010.

VAN SUSTEREN: Has the recall process changed you in any way? In a sense, have you sort of, you know, decided to be more conciliatory on certain issues or -- or is there any way you're sort of responding to this different -- in a way?

WALKER: Oh, no doubt about it. If I look back in time, I wouldn't change the product. What I did was right, and we've seen ultimately the results have been positive for the hard-working taxpayers of our state.

But I think it's also important to make sure you've got a good process. If I had it to do over again, I would probably spend more time building the foundation for support. If I had told voters, taxpayers last year that, you know, most school districts in our state had to buy their health insurance before our reforms without being able to bid it out, and instead, because of that, had to literally cost them tens of millions of dollars -- our reforms have changed that.

They're now putting more money in the classroom and making those savings by bidding out health insurance. I think most voters would have said, yes, Governor, you need to do that. I tried to fix it, then I talked about it. Most politicians talk about it but never fix it. I'll pick fixing it every time, but I understand, process-wise, you need to talk about it and fix it to get the two done together.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, in '08, President Obama won the state of Wisconsin by about 12 or 14 points, a significant margin the state going Democrat. Two years later, you win as a Republican governor. And then about a year-and-a-half later, there's a recall vote. You're leading by 6 votes. But there's a presidential election in November.

I'm curious if you see this Wisconsin process in any way as sort of reflective of what's going on sort of the national picture, number one. And is this -- and is this June 5th election going to tell us a little bit about which way Wisconsin's going to go come November?

WALKER: Well, I think, in many ways, Wisconsin's much like the country. We have to decide, do we believe that success in government is how many more people are signed up for government benefits, particularly for unemployment benefits, or do we believe, as I do, that the true sign of success is how many people do you get off of unemployment? How many people are no longer dependent on the government and instead control their own destiny to have freedom and prosperity not only for themselves but for their children and their grandchildren?

That's really the difference. It's the difference we see here in Wisconsin. It's the difference we see nationally. It's a real difference between taking our state backwards to the days when the government called the shots and a handful of special interests, or whether or not the hard- working taxpayers are going to control those shots and move our state forward, and ultimately, I think, in many ways, truly move our country forward.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, down the road a little bit in Janesville is where the home of Congressman Paul Ryan. Lots of people are talking about the possibility that -- that Governor Romney would choose him as a running mate. I know he's a friend of yours, but I thought would he be a good choice? And why?

WALKER: Oh, he'd be spectacular. Paul and I grew up down the road. I grew up in the small town of Delivan. Janesville was the spot we went on Friday nights to watch movies and go out to eat at Shakee's and hang out at the mall because they actually had a mall, unlike our town.

But Paul is the salt of the earth. He's a good Midwestern guy. And he's smart as can be. I think he's the sharpest guy in Congress out there. He would be a great addition not just for those of us from Wisconsin, but I think for all of us across America who appreciate courage. Paul probably more than anybody in our nation's capital has exhibited courage and smarts and he's exactly the kind of person I think would be a great addition to any ticket.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, thank you. Hope to come out before the recall. And of course, we've made the same offer to your opponent, Mayor Barrett. And I hope he takes up on it -- take us up on it, as well. Thank you, Governor.

WALKER: Thanks. And don't forget to vote for Donald Driver to keep him on "Dancing With the Stars." We need a Packer winning there, too.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, the fix is always in with me with the Packers, I confess. Anyway, thank you, Governor.