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WEDC Would Be Replaced With New Agency Under Democratic Plan

Top Lawmakers Say WEDC's Brand Has Been Forever Marred

Rep. Peter Barca and Sen. Julie Lassa
Shawn Johnson/WPR

Two Democrats say it’s time for Wisconsin to scrap its troubled economic development agency and start over fresh with a new model.

Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, and Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said Tuesday they want to abolish the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and return all economic development programs to a public agency. Both Lassa and Barca are members of the current WEDC board.

Gov. Scott Walker pushed for the creation of the quasi-private WEDC as one his first acts in office, billing it as a more nimble way to help businesses than the old State Department of Commerce. Four years, two scathing audits, and several questionable financial grants later, Julie Lassa said the organization’s brand has been damaged beyond repair.

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“The WEDC experiment has to end, and it’s our responsibility as legislators to plan for what happens next,” she said.

Lassa said the new agency she and Barca are proposing would be different than the old Department of Commerce: Whereas the old department had a variety of regulatory duties, this agency would focus exclusively on economic development.