WEDC may have awarded tax credits without authorization
By the Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. (AP) – A newspaper is reporting that Gov. Scott Walker’s troubled economic development agency may have awarded $21 million in tax credits to companies it wasn’t’ authorized to give out.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Thursday that the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau sent at letter in August to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation noting that the agency had awarded $101.7 million in contracts, or $21.3 million more than its legal limit.
An attorney with the state Department of Administration issued a memo in September backing WEDC’s approach. A WEDC spokesman says the state Justice Department will issue a similar opinion soon. David Meany. DOJ’s Legal Services administrator, told The Associated Press that agency believes WEDC did nothing wrong.
WEDC has been plagued with problems since Walker created it in 2011.
“It’s time to restore accountability and put an end to the WEDC’s history of corruption,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse).
Democrats have introduced a number of proposals to increase accountability, according to statement from Shilling’s office.
Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) and Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) have authored legislation to overhaul the WEDC and improve taxpayer transparency. Additionally, Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) have authored legislation to crack down on alleged fraud and alleged corruption at the WEDC, Shilling’s office said.
WEDC issued a statement on Thursday to Action 2 News stating that WEDC has been proactively working with the Co-Chairs of Joint Finance, our Board of Directors, and the state budget office to discuss the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s concerns and a solution to address them.
Further WEDC maintains the organization is transparent.
“WEDC has always been transparent regarding how these tax credits are administered. Prior to now, no one, including LFB, has raised questions or concerns on how the Department of Commerce or WEDC have allocated credits. In fact, LAB has extensively reviewed this program and did not issue any recommendations with WEDC’s jobs tax credit allocations method in any of their four (12-11, 13-7, 14-11 or 15-3) financial or programmatic audits,” said Steven Michels, Public Affairs and Communications with the WEDC.
“Since the [tax] program’s inception in 2009, the allocation of credits have been closely tracked and regularly reported to the legislature, our auditors, and the legislative service agencies,” Michels added.