WEDC Board Asks For More Control


Board members of the state jobs agency say the board of directors needs more power.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is facing legislative scrutiny after a critical state audit found the agency broke laws and didn’t keep track of business loans.

Governor Scott Walker created the public/private jobs agency in 2011 to replace the former state Commerce Department. Walker is chairman of WEDC’s board, which board member Rep. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) calls “toothless.” She and other Democrats want the board to elect the chairman, as well as carrying authority over top officials at the jobs agency.

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“The board must have the authority to hire and fire all top WEDC positions – including the chief executive officer, the chief operating officer and the chief financial officer.”

WEDC’s annual report claimed 24,000 jobs were created or saved. The nonpartisan state Legislative Audit Bureau said 5,000, but added it was hard to verify with available information. Board member and Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca called the agency’s job efforts “abysmal,” partly because businesses don’t know what programs the agency offers.

“It used to be clear to everybody. They were right in the statutes: Here are the programs, here is how you qualify. And it was clear who qualified under what circumstances. One of the charges that the Audit Bureau brought forward was the fact that it’s not clear. People don’t know who qualifies. “

The Republican-dominated budget writing committee did agree to withhold funding from the agency until changes are made. To get full funding, WEDC would have to show it is complying with suggestions made in a state audit.