MADISON, Wis. — The continuing mismanagement and misuse of public funds at Governor Walker’s Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) ought to disqualify the agency from any new funding, according to One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. Particularly egregious is a 2013-15 budget proposal giving WEDC $11 million in new taxpayer money to run an advertising campaign.
Ross said, “If they can’t keep track of the funds they already have, why do they deserve another dime of taxpayer money? Adding insult to the outrage of Gov. Walker’s mismanaged WEDC is its utter failure to perform as advertised, with Wisconsin ranking among worst in the nation for job creation.”
A recent audit revealed shocking mismanagement like improperly awarding grants and loans and failing to follow basic accounting practices and the misuse of taxpayer funds to buy liquor, badger tickets and itunes gift cards. Today, news broke that a top WEDC aide abruptly resigned upon media reports that he improperly collected nearly $8,000 in unemployment benefits and owed over $36,000 in back state taxes. WEDC also recently lost their chief financial officer, who quit after just 24 hours on the job.
One Wisconsin Now had previously flagged the provision in Gov. Walker’s 2013-15 budget proposal giving WEDC nearly $11 million for an advertising campaign. Ross noted that with Wisconsin’s jobs crisis needing immediate attention, WEDC is given nearly twice as much to spend in the second year of the budget versus the first. With Gov. Walker chairing the WEDC Board of Directors, the advertising appears to be geared to raise Gov. Walker’s national political profile in advance of the 2016 GOP Presidential Primary.
“If the employees at Gov. Walker’s WEDC were allowed to buy booze, Badger tickets and gift cards with our money, what’s to stop Gov. Walker, as chair of the board, from making sure his national political ambitions get a boost from the advertising campaign he’s giving them $11 million to run?” asked Ross.
The actual track record of WEDC on job creation is little better than its press. Wisconsin currently ranks 44th in the nation in job creation and a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce report ranked the state dead last in the nation in short term job creation prospects.
He concluded, “Sadly the critics who said Gov. Walker’s WEDC wasn’t up to the job were one hundred percent correct. Another dime of public money for this mismanaged, underperforming boondoggle now would be inexcusable.”