UPDATE: Wis. Senate to vote on WEDC board bill

UPDATED Tuesday, June 18, 2013 --- 8:03 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Senate is getting ready to vote on a bill that would limit terms for board members at Gov. Scott Walker's troubled quasi-public jobs agency.

The bipartisan measure would require Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation board members to serve fixed six-year terms rather than serve at the pleasure of the governor and legislative leaders. State auditors would have to perform annual reviews of WEDC's finances rather than biennial studies and all WEDC employees would be subject to state ethics laws.

WEDC has drawn fire after a May audit found the agency didn't consistently follow the law or its own policies during its first year, failed to adequately track loans and provided tax breaks to companies that didn't qualify.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill on Tuesday.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

_______________________________________

UPDATED Tuesday, June 11, 2013 --- 4:47 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Senate has passed a bill that would ban Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. employees from negotiating contracts that might benefit them.

The bill would ban WEDC board members and employees with a monetary interest in a contract from participating in the deals or exercising any discretion on it.

The Assembly passed the bipartisan bill last month. The Senate approved it on a voice vote Tuesday. It now goes to Gov. Scott Walker, who supports the bill.

The governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature created WEDC in 2011 to help the governor meet his campaign promise to create 250,000 private-sector jobs. But the agency is reeling after an audit revealed it hasn't followed state law, adequately tracked loans and sometimes gave money to companies that didn't qualify.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

____________________________________________

UPDATED Friday, May 17, 2013 --- 11:07 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A bipartisan group of legislators has introduced a bill that makes some changes to Wisconsin's troubled economic development agency.

The legislation requires an independent annual financial audit of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Currently the agency is audited every other year by the Legislative Audit Bureau.

The State Journal says the bill introduced Thursday also calls for fixed term for its board members, instead of serving at the pleasure of Gov. Scott Walker and legislative leaders.

The 2-year-old agency WEDC was harshly criticized in a recent audit which found it hasn't followed state law, adequately tracked loans and sometimes gave money to companies that didn't qualify. The Legislature's budget committee has decided to block new WEDC funding until improvements are made.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

______________________________________

UPDATED Tuesday, May 14, 2013 --- 5:40 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Assembly has approved a bill that would bar Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. employees from negotiating contracts they have a financial stake in.

Republican Rep. Jeff Stone's bill would ban WEDC board members and employees with a monetary interest in a contract from participating in the deal or exercising any discretion on it. The Assembly approved the measure 80-15 on Tuesday. The bill now goes to the state Senate.

WEDC is reeling in the wake of an audit that revealed the agency hasn't followed state law, adequately tracked loans and sometimes gave money to companies that didn't qualify. The Legislature's budget committee has decided to block new WEDC funding until improvements are made and require WEDC workers to follow ethics and financial disclosure laws.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

________________________________________

UPDATED: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 -- 5:53 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Assembly is set to take up a bill that would bar Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. employees from negotiating contracts they may have a financial stake in.

Rep. Jeff Stone's bill would ban WEDC board members and employees with a monetary interest in a contract from participating in drawing up the deal or exercising any discretion in regard to the contract.

The Assembly is expected to vote on the bill Tuesday.

The measure comes after an audit revealed WEDC hasn't followed state law, adequately tracked its loans and sometimes gave money to companies that didn't qualify for tax breaks. The Legislature's budget committee decided last week to block new WEDC funding until improvements are made and require WEDC workers to follow state ethics and financial interest disclosure laws.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

____________________________________
UPDATED Thursday, May 9, 2013 --- 4:46 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker's beleaguered jobs-creation agency would have to meet a number of tough new requirements under a proposal that could be added to the state budget.

Republicans are making the proposal Thursday.

Under their plan, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. also could not spend any money in the second year of the state budget until it showed lawmakers that improvements had been made.

The Joint Finance Committee plans to vote on imposing the new requirements in response to a scathing audit of WEDC released last week. Both Republicans and Democrats have called for WEDC to make drastic improvements in light of the audit.

WEDC leaders say they are making improvements and are on the right path.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

___________________________________________

UPDATED Thursday, May 9, 2013 --- 10:19 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Democratic lawmaker on the Legislature's audit committee is questioning whether the troubled Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. has created any jobs.

The quasi-governmental WEDC provides financial assistance to businesses. The Joint Legislative Audit Committee met Thursday to review a state report released last week that found WEDC didn't consistently follow the law or its own policies during its first year, didn't adequately track loans and gave tax breaks to companies that didn't qualify.

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout of Alma pointed out the report noted WEDC has reported its efforts have created or saved around 5,000 jobs. But the report cautions WEDC received only 45 percent of contractually required progress reports and the agency didn't verify any of the information. The report says it's difficult to verify the accuracy of WEDC's numbers.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

_________________________________________

UPDATED Wednesday, May 8, 2013 --- 1:59 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Any increase in funding for Gov. Scott Walker's premier jobs-creating agency may be held by the Legislature until certain improvements are made.

Budget committee co-chair Rep. John Nygren said Wednesday that the panel was moving ahead with voting on Walker's proposed $14 million spending increases for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. on Thursday.

But Nygren says the money may be held by the Joint Finance Committee until WEDC enacts certain reforms and installs accountability measures.

Democrats have called for a delay in consideration of WEDC's budget given serious issues raised in a nonpartisan audit last week that showed the agency didn't follow the law, follow its own policies or track millions of dollars it gave in grants and tax breaks.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

__________________________________________________

UPDATED Wednesday, May 8, 2013 --- 12:50 p.m.

WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) -- Republican state Rep. Jeff Stone says lawmakers are greatly frustrated with the state's economic development agency, and they want quick action.

Stone's comments came Wednesday at a board meeting for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. A recent audit of the job-creation agency found a number of serious missteps.

Stone, a board member, said WEDC is an organization "in intensive care," and lawmakers want to see dramatic improvement quickly.

State Sen. Julie Lassa, a Democrat and fellow board member, said she shared Stone's frustration. She said the agency hasn't done a good enough job of communicating issues to the board, making it difficult for the board to provide proper oversight.

Members of WEDC described steps already being taken to help solve problems, including new procedures for evaluating and tracking loans.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

__________________________________________

UPDATED Wednesday, May 8, 2013 --- 10:44 a.m.

WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) -- Board members for the state's economic development agency say they should have been allowed to participate in a recent audit that ultimately found a number of serious missteps.

The board of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. wasn't allowed to know anything about the audit until the results were released last week. Several members said Wednesday they say they can't be expected to do their jobs as board members if they're shut out from the process.

Gov. Scott Walker says maybe there needs to be a tweak to the rule governing audits.

The audit was performed by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau.

Democratic state Sen. Julie Lassa says she'd like to have LAB auditors address the board so the board can get a better understanding of the standards they're using.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

_______________________________________________

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee plans to move ahead with a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget for his chief economic development agency despite mounting concerns and Democrats' calls for a delay.

Committee co-chair Rep. John Nygren said Wednesday he was prepared to move ahead with Thursday's vote on the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. two-year, $75.6 million budget.

Democrats have called for a delay given serious issues raised in a nonpartisan audit last week. That report was to be reviewed by the Legislature's Audit Committee at the same time on Thursday that WEDC's budget was up for a vote.

Nygren says that while reforms may be needed at WEDC, he doesn't believe it should hold up consideration of the agency's budget.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

__________________________________________________

WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker has convened an emergency meeting of his flagship job-creation agency to discuss last week's scathing audit.

Walker was in Waukesha on Wednesday meeting with the board of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

WEDC has been beset by problems in its two years of existence. For example, a nonpartisan audit released last week found WEDC didn't consistently follow the law during its first year. The agency also failed to adequately track loans and it provided tax breaks to unqualified companies.

Walker opened the meeting saying counties and employers have provided largely positive feedback about the role WEDC has played in their job-creation projects. He says it's frustrating to now have to talk about shortcomings within the agency, some of which relate to staffers who are no longer there.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

______________________________________________

UPDATED Tuesday, May 7, 2013--6p.m.
MADISON--The WEDC is under fire for the second time in as many weeks, as it's revealed that a newly-hired spokesman owes close to $36,000 in back taxes. The employee resigned on Monday.

This, after an audit found that the agency had given money to ineligible recipients and didn't appropriately track some of the amounts awarded. "This audit that came out sent a chill through my spine," said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.

Combine that with Monday's resignation and Democrats are saying it's time for reforms. And they're asking that consideration of the WEDC's budget be delayed. "Certainly all indications are that WEDC is a financial train-wreck out there," said State Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie. "And we should not be voting on giving them more money on Thursday."

However, the Republican speaker of the Assembly says that's not necessary. "It's not like just because we vote on WEDC this week it's a done deal," said Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington. "Other reforms can definitely be included in the budget throughout the entire process, we don't pass it until the end of June."

Rep. Barca says Democrats plan to introduce at least a half dozen bills over the next few weeks aimed at reforming the WEDC.

----------------------------------------------------------------
UPDATED Tuesday, May 7, 2013 --- 1:15 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says there have been embarrassing mistakes made at the state's quasi-governmental job-creation agency, but he believes it's on the right track.

Vos on Tuesday defended work being done by the embattled Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. in light of Democratic calls to create a special committee to ensure WEDC follows the law. A recent audit found numerous instances where WEDC didn't follow state law.

On Tuesday WKOW-TV in Madison reported that WEDC's recently hired spokesman owes $36,000 in back taxes. The spokesman resigned Monday after about a month on the job.

Vos says "there's no doubt that's an embarrassing situation," but he doesn't think consideration of WEDC's budget should be held up as Democrats want.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

_____________________________________

UPDATED Tuesday, May 7, 2013 --- 11:07 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Democratic lawmakers are calling for the creation of a special bipartisan committee to investigate ways that Gov. Scott Walker's flagship job creation agency can be improved.

The resolution unveiled Tuesday comes after an audit found the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. failed to follow state law in awarding grants and loans, did not adequately oversee awards it did make and sometimes gave money to companies that did not qualify to receive tax breaks.

Democratic Sen. Julie Lassa and Assembly Democratic leader Rep. Peter Barca are also members of the WEDC board. They say immediate action needs to be taken to improve the quasi-governmental agency Walker and Republicans created in 2011.

Walker called an emergency meeting of the board for Wednesday to discuss the audit.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

________________________________________

UPDATED Tuesday, May 7, 2013 --- 10:36 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The man hired last month to help the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. with its public image has resigned a month after he was hired.

WEDC says John Gillespie resigned Monday after WKOW-TV made inquiries about some money he apparently owes the state of Wisconsin. WKOW reports Gillespie is on the state's delinquent taxpayer list, owing about $36,000 in back taxes.

In a separate case from Outagamie County, the state Department of Workforce Development filed a warrant seeking nearly $8,000 in unemployment insurance compensation benefits he received.

Gillespie's resignation comes less than a week after a scathing state audit of WEDC. The report by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau said WEDC broke state law, failed to adequately track money it awarded for economic development projects and sometimes gave money to ineligible recipients.

A phone number for Gillespie is not listed.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

_______________________________________

UPDATED Monday, May 6, 2013 --- 11:36 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker says he hopes the board of his lead job-creation agency can meet as soon as Wednesday to discuss a scathing audit released last week that detailed numerous law violations and other problems.

Walker said Monday he wanted the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board that he chairs to meet and go over every point in the audit. The report last week by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau said WEDC broke state law, failed to adequately track money it awarded for economic development projects and sometimes gave money to ineligible recipients.

The Legislature's Audit Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss the report, the same day that the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee is scheduled to consider Walker's funding request for the agency.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

___________________________________________

UPDATED Thursday, May 2, 2013 --- 11:12 a.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- In the wake of a stinging audit of his premier job-creation agency, Gov. Scott Walker says he's open to lawmakers' calls for a follow-up audit.

Walker was responding Thursday to an audit of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. That's the quasi-private agency that replaced the public Department of Commerce about two years ago.

The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau released a report Wednesday outlining a number of serious missteps, including failure to adequately track money and giving money to ineligible recipients.

Walker says the audit repeats a number of items that were already known. He also says some of the loans occurred before the agency was created.

He says he's asked the WEDC board to create a credit committee to review the loans, particularly the ones that are past due.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

_________________________________________________

UPDATED Wednesday, May 1, 2013--6:00 p.m.

MADISON--The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is getting slammed in light of an audit report. The report states that in some cases, the agency awarded money to ineligible recipients for ineligible projects. In some instances, it also gave out more money than was allowed under the agency's policies. Additionally, the report says the agency didn't verify the performance information reported by some award recipients.The findings are provoking concern on both sides of the aisle--and sparking calls for change. "People want transparency and accountability and I think the audit brings to life that they are challenged significantly," said State Rep. Samantha Kerkman, a Republican and the co-chair of the Legislative Audit Committee. "We need to go forward with additional changes in the department or the agency."

"WEDC's been around for almost two years now and we still do not even have it close to being right," said State Rep. Peter Barca, a Democrat and the Assembly minority leader. "You have a lack of internal controls, you have poor management decisions being made."
Rep. Barca also thinks there should be a timeline for getting things right. He'd like to see an audit done this time next year, and if things aren't corrected by then, he says it's time to scrap the WEDC and go back to the commerce model.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Posted Wednesday, May 1, 2013 --- 9:52 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau says the state's premiere economic development agency has repeatedly not followed state law, awarded money to ineligible projects, and failed to adequately monitor those who have gotten money.

Wednesday's blistering audit of the nearly two-year-old Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is leading Republican lawmakers to call for changes.

Legislative Audit Committee co-chair, Republican Sen. Rob Cowles, says the audit shows "there is a significant disconnect between our expectations of WEDC and the reality of their performance with regard to transparency and accountability."

WEDC's leader Reed Hall says in a letter to the Audit Bureau that significant progress is being made to address the problems found. He says many solutions are already in place or are in the process of being implemented.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press


Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
NBC15 615 Forward Drive Madison, Wisconsin 53711 Business: 608-274-1515 Newsroom: 608-274-1500
Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 205596801 - nbc15.com/a?a=205596801
Gray Television, Inc.