- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin’s troubled job-creation agency handed out more awards last year but created fewer jobs, according to its annual report.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation awarded nearly $90 million more in economic development awards last year than the previous year, according to the report issued Friday. But those awards are expected to create or retain almost 6,000 fewer jobs and result in $400 million less in capital investment.

Most of the additional funding resulted from a historic rehabilitation tax credit that Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature expanded in 2013, the Wisconsin State Journal (https://bit.ly/1OPh6L3 ) reported Tuesday. Even without those credits, total awards increased $13.5 million, while promised job creation and capital investment dropped.

A WEDC spokesman says job numbers dropped because of declining interest in a tax credit program.

Democratic lawmakers on the WEDC board repeated their call for replacing the agency with a new public entity.

“I am deeply concerned that taxpayers are not getting the needed bang for their buck at WEDC,” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said in a statement.

State Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, said she will ask for an explanation of the numbers at Thursday’s WEDC board meeting.

“We know Wisconsin continues to lag behind the national average in new job creation, and I think we have to acknowledge that our state job creation programs haven’t had the kind of impact we need,” Lassa said in an email.

Republican lawmakers on the WEDC board did not respond to a request from the newspaper for comment.

Walker and the Legislature created the WEDC in 2011 to replace the state Department of Commerce. The agency has been plagued with problems since the start. A May audit noted WEDC’s contracts with grant and loan recipients haven’t complied with state law and the agency hasn’t demanded proof that award recipients are actually creating or retaining jobs. Documents WEDC released in June showed the agency handed out more than $124 million to companies without a proper review.

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Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, https://www.madison.com/wsj


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