“Five hundred billion” seems to be a heavily used number these days, from a national perspective. It’s often, often used by Republicans to describe the Medicare cuts from the Affordable Care Act (although ironically that’s what Paul Ryan’s imaginary budgets call for as well). But when used at a “state”or local level, it’s difficult to surmise what it may be describing, because almost no state budgetary line item would approach 500 billion, except for maybe legacy costs for state workers in California (actuarially-determined liabilities for retirement benefits ). So when Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois used this number to describe a proposed budget increase in property taxes by Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin in a PolitiFact fact-check, it was pretty obvious that it was a typo, that he meant $500 million.
So after admitting such, PolitiFact Wisconsin’s Dave Umhoefer then determines it’s more like $350 MILLION (deduced from $483 million as sourced from the Quinn campaign itself when Umhoefer inquired) , although the actual number later turned out to be much less. So $350 million is 70% of $500 million…not a Mostly True, but a Half True or maybe a Mostly False.
But he gives Quinn a Pants on Fire….why?
Quinn said his Wisconsin counterpart had increased property taxes nearly $500 billion. That was explained as an old-fashioned typo. But even then, the $500 million is way off.
When Walker signed the budget in June 2011, property taxes were estimated to go up $350 million under the most common accounting. That estimate held until the April 16, 2012 report -- and it seems likely Quinn’s email was prepared before Walker’s announcement changed the game.
But he didn’t correct the million/billion typo in a timely way, and is still using the equally wrong $500 million claim. We think that’s ridiculous.
For the few days following the statement made by Quinn, April 18-19, Umhoefer cites/ links three sources which refer to the $500 million/billion. The first one, the Rockford Register Star, was almost published immediately after, on April 17, The second link, NBC-5 Chicago, in a blog by Edward McClelland, was done April 18, fixes the billion typo, and refers to it correctly as a budget item: “Governor Walker’s budget calls for raising local property taxes in Wisconsin by nearly a half-billion dollars ($ 483.8 million).”
The last link is to a blogspot website like this one, a self-proclaimed progressive blog called "The Political Environment” by James Rowen, and it’s a copy/paste of the Quinn message, something one would expect from a liberal blog immediately following the statement.
But then Umhoefer cites several articles in June that do not correct the error: one is to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, in a piece titled the “Top Ten Worst Items in Scott Walker’s Radical Budget” and what appears to be another progressive blog written by a Democratic Wisconsin State Representative.
But both of these are not related to the statement as made by Quinn—they ostensibly get their information from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. In otherwords, it’s not Quinn, the object of the fact-check, who’s “still using the equally wrong $500 million claim.” If Umhoefer had cited a later statement (in June) by Quinn, he would be right, but that’s not what he did. Or if one of these articles referred back to, or quoted Quinn’s statement, Umhoefer’s claim would ring true. OF COURSE the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is going to use the budgetary, much different than actual, $483 million figure as part of their political spin—but it doesn't appear that they got the number from the Governor of Illinois. Umhoefer put the blame on him with these June reports, however, to bridge the Truth-o-Meter gap over to Pantalones en Fuego.
If one doesn’t read the links, one would likely believe that Quinn continued using the number or that his $500 million (or close to it) was cited by others, but it wasn’t. And until Dave Umhoefer can cite a link that says he was, this is more like Mostly False, and it was Pants on Fire ridiculous to make it Pants on Fire.