Democrats to unveil WEDC reform bill Tuesday, preparing other bills for fall session

By Larry Lee, WSAU Radio


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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAU) -- Two elected Democratic lawmakers will unveil their proposal to overhaul Wisconsin's troubled economic development agency Tuesday morning. Senator Julie Lassa from Stevens Point and Representative & Minority Leader Peter Barca from Kenosha will release their proposal to change the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
Representative Katrina Shankland from Stevens Point is Barca's Assistant Minority Leader. She and her Democratic colleagues are highly critical of the WEDC practices, which include several questionable loans and some shady loan applications. "We had one corporate executive apply for a loan fraudulently and lie on his application. We had people try to take money for their Maserati loans. We saw applications that did not actually have any kind of collateral on hand, so we saw a lot of really unsecured loans and fraud in the system and it's failed us. It's failed the taxpayer. It's a bad investment because it's not working, so we need to do something new."
Shankland says their 11:15 a.m. Tuesday announcement at the Capitol is designed to fix the broken agency.  "You will see some big changes as to where, who has the responsibilities, just like how we believe that there should be checks and balances on government, we also don't think that there should just be a private sector entity that that's delivering tax dollar resources to people. We think there should be a check on that ability to dispense that money, and so you'll see a plan to basically provide additional layers of taxpayer protection."
WEDC has been the subject of criticism with two poor audits, several questionable loans and investments, and a high staff turnover.
Both Barca and Lassa are on the WEDC Board of Directors, and have been very vocal about the last two WEDC audits, which they say show the agency isn't managing the taxpayers' dollars well.
Another bill being prepared by Shankland for consideration in the fall session is aimed at Governor Scott Walker, and his alleged abuse of state resources while campaigning for President. Shankland is one of many Democrats unhappy with Walker's use of security and travel resources for a national campaign, and she's proposing a new law to force candidates to report spending more frequently.  "I have a bill called the Wisconsin Taxpayer Protection Act, which would require anyone running for federal office who holds state office to report their expenditures on a monthly basis, and pay a fine if they don't deliver that on a timely manner."
Shankland says the Governor has been using up to four million in taxpayer money for security and travel expenses while campaigning for President, and she would like to see more disclosure and more frequent reporting.
The Assistant Minority Leader says the Democrats are also working on preserving the open records laws and their family-oriented initiatives.