WEDC Troubles Show Folly of Taxpayer Funded Business Loans

By Collin Roth

On Tuesday, a long-awaited audit of the troubled Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) was released revealing $19 million in taxpayer funded loans that are at risk of not being paid back. According to WisPolitics.com:

The audit estimates that $15 million of those loans are a combination of forgivable loans or loans that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation may still receive some payment on. As such, that $15 million wouldn’t represent a total financial loss to the agency.

However, another $4 million is expected to be completely uncollectible.

The WEDC was created in 2011 to replace the Department of Commerce, providing loans, incentives, and seed money for businesses in Wisconsin to spur the economy. But in recent months, WEDC has come to represent the follies and mismanagement that so-often accompany the toxic tonic that mixes taxpayer dollars with private industry. And because this was a Republican idea implemented by Republican lawmakers doesn’t make it any better.

In response to the crisis at WEDC, GOP Rep. Dale Kooyenga told Wisconsin Reporter “I don’t want to point any fingers at this point, but there’s definitely room for improvement.” Room for improvement would be an understatement.

Predictably, Wisconsin Democrats and Left-wing groups have sprung to action to criticize the WEDC. Rep. Peter Barca demanded more oversight while Sen. Chris Larson said “It’s unacceptable to allow WEDC to continue to play fast and loose with our tax dollars as a time when Wisconsin continues to lag behind the rest of the country in job growth.”

Citizen Action of Wisconsin posted a grainy photo on Facebook claiming “Scott Walker’s job agency has failed.”

The outrage and criticism is not altogether unwarrented. But, it is far from genuine. Between Democratic President Barack Obama and former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle, these Democrats and Left-wing entities begged for a taxpayer funded public works projects, green energy subsidies, and stimulus funds that have been the subject of greater waste, fraud, and abuse.

The same Rep. Peter Barca who is outraged about waste at WEDC told the Capitol Times in 2011 that “Creating clean-energy jobs has many added advantages, in addition to adding jobs in a major growth sector in the world economy.” On the failed federal stimulus program, then County Supervisor Chris Larson spoke at rallies demanding that Milwaukee “seek assistance from the federal government” to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars for just his supervisory district.

The follies of green energy subsidies and taxpayer funded loans are well documented. The MacIver Institute highlighted a now defunct green energy company north of Madison called 5N Plus that received $500,000 of Wisconsin taxpayer dollars in 2010, only to shutter in 2012 without a hint of outrage from Democrats. Solyndra and battery company A123 have become synonymous with government waste and mismanagement of federal taxpayer dollars.

The good stewardship of taxpayer dollars should have no party. And legislators ought to focus on fixing WEDC before any more money from hard-working taxpayers is wasted.

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