Republican Finance Committee chairs rush to pump taxpayer money into broken jobs agency
Democratic call for full public and expert scrutiny of WEDC ignored by GOP leaders
MADISON – Despite alarming findings of abuses of taxpayer money in an audit of Wisconsin’s job creation agency, the Republican-controlled budget committee rushed to approve the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC)’s budget on Thursday – even before the Joint Legislative Committee on Audit reviews the findings and holds its public hearing, scheduled that same day.
Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee), who is a member of both the Joint Finance Committee and the Legislative Audit Committee, sent a letter with his Democratic Joint Finance colleagues calling on the co-chairs to adjust the JFC schedule in light of the audit’s findings.
“Given the illegal loans and tax credits, lack of accountability and inappropriate employee purchases revealed in the audit of WEDC last week, I cannot understand why Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee would consider ramming through a plan to spend tens of millions more in taxpayer dollars on the boondoggle of Gov. Walker’s jobs agency without full public scrutiny or any plan for reform,” Richards said.
The Audit Committee has scheduled a public hearing on these findings the same morning JFC is set to approve more taxpayer funding for WEDC. When the University of Wisconsin System was found to have a significant rainy day fund balance, Gov. Walker and most Republican legislators sought to completely redo the UW budget. But when far greater problems that involve the misuse and abuse of public funds at WEDC were uncovered, Republicans refused to apply that same standard and revisit its budget.
“Wisconsin is 44th in the country in job growth, 45th in wage growth and dead last in short-term job growth – and WEDC’s failures due to lack of oversight are a big reason why,” added Richards. “Yet Republicans seem intent on pumping more taxpayer money into WEDC’s fuel tank so they can keep driving full-speed ahead in this broken-down car without ever looking under the hood to figure out why it isn’t running properly and address the problems.
“From its creation, Gov. Walker and Republican legislators have rejected common-sense ideas that would have ensured WEDC was more transparent and accountable to the taxpayers. If the Republican co-chairs of JFC choose to move forward with this week’s vote on WEDC, they will only be further complicit in trying to cover up and ignore this significant abuse of taxpayer dollars.”
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