- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke met Friday for the first of two debates before the Nov. 4 election. Here are some of the issues they discussed:

JOBS AND THE ECONOMY

When it comes to whether Wisconsin is a leader or a laggard in job creation, Burke and Walker relied on conflicting numbers to make their points.

Walker’s central 2010 campaign promise, which he repeated during the 2012 recall, was that 250,000 new private-sector jobs would be added to the state by the end of this year. Based on the latest federal jobs numbers Walker has called the “gold standard” of measurement, only about 102,000 jobs have been added.

Burke pointed to those numbers as evidence that Walker’s policies have failed.

Walker claimed that Wisconsin’s job growth is fourth in the Midwest, which is true when looking at less-reliable monthly jobs data from August 2013 to August 2014.

Based on the most recently released “gold standard” data, covering the 12-month period ending in March, Wisconsin ranked eighth out of 10 in job creation in the Midwest and 33rd nationally.

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MEDICAID EXPANSION:

Walker and Burke disagreed on the federal health care overhaul.

Walker defended his decision not to accept federal money to pay for Medicaid coverage for people earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level. Instead, he lowered Medicaid eligibility from 200 percent of poverty to 100 percent.

At the same time, Walker eliminated a waiting list for childless adults attempting to get Medicaid coverage. So while 63,000 people lost Medicaid coverage through the new tighter income requirements, about 97,000 more people were enrolled because of the waiting list elimination.

Burke said Walker should have accepted the Medicaid expansion money. She said Walker’s refusal to take it was wrongheaded because Wisconsin lost out on hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government to help pay for health care.

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ABORTION:

One of the hottest issues in the days leading up to the debate was Walker’s opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.

Burke and her backers have been running television ads attacking Walker for that position, as well as his record cutting funding for Planned Parenthood and requiring women to have an ultrasound before getting an abortion.

In the debate, as he does in a campaign ad, Walker tried to soften those attacks by saying that his record is strong for issues women care about, including increasing funding for domestic abuse shelters, cutting taxes, eliminating the waiting list for Medicaid coverage and making oral chemotherapy drugs that cancer patients can take at home more affordable.

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MINIMUM WAGE:

Burke said she supported raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, saying it would help raise people out of poverty and create a strong middle class. Walker opposes the increase, saying it would lead employers to cut jobs and hurt the state’s economy. Walker said he wants to create jobs that pay more than the minimum wage.

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PRESIDENTIAL RUN:

Both Walker and Burke were asked if they would promise to serve a full four-year term. Burke said that she would and that she wanted to be the longest-serving governor in state history. Walker, who is frequently mentioned as a possible 2016 GOP presidential candidate, said, “My plan, if the people of Wisconsin elect me, is to be here for four years.”

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