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Democratic Lawmakers Call For Jobs Agency Overhaul

Barca, Lassa Both Serve On WEDC Board

Rep. Peter Barca and Sen. Julie Lassa
Democratic State Rep. Peter Barca, left, and State Sen. Julie Lassa. Photo: Shawn Johnson/WPR

Two Democratic state lawmakers who also sit on the board for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. are shopping around legislation that would dramatically change the state’s economic development arm. WEDC’s board is set to meet Thursday in Appleton.

State Sen. Julie Lassa and Rep. Peter Barca have served on WEDC’s board of directors since it was created. Now they are calling for Gov. Scott Walker’s troubled public-private job creation agency to be replaced with what they call a “two pronged” hybrid agency. One arm would focus on job creation, the other would market and promote Wisconsin.

Barca said the setup would save taxpayers money administratively, though he doesn’t have an estimate.

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“The Department of Justice can do the collections when companies default on their loans or are not able to fulfill their obligations,” Barca said. “So we no longer will have to hire pricey private law firms to do that.”

The bill now doesn’t have any Republican co-sponsors.

Barca and Lassa met with Republicans, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on the issue. Vos was not available for comment.