Tag Archives: Wisconsin Economic Development Council

Scott Walker setting himself up for a third term as governor

Gov. Scott Walker is setting up himself up to run for a third term as governor.

Walker says he will wait until late 2016 or after the end of the year to make a formal decision, but he says he feels good about the progress he’s made and thinks he can build off it.

Walker, who’s never held a job outside of politics, made the comments to reporters Jan. 26 after he signed a bill at the Rock County Courthouse expanding the state’s Family Care program to the county.

Although Walker and the right-wing spin machine have been cherry-picking economic data in the state to make it appear as if Walker’s economic programs have been a success, they’ve actually failed miserably.

Wisconsin’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2015, released at the end of last year by the Dept. of Administration showed that the state’s General Fund deficit, as measured by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, increased in fiscal year 2015 by $414 million — from about $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion.

At the same time, his scandal-plagued “job creation” agency has lost track of millions of taxpayer dollars. Sixty percent of taxpayer funds provided by the Wisconsin Economic Development Council went to Walker donors, some of whom had terrible financial records. The money was given to companies that didn’t promise to create jobs in the state. Some of them took the money and built up their operations in other states.

Wisconsin lost 10,000 jobs last year, when most states posted job gains.

Wisconsin has the nation’s fastest-shrinking middle class. Household income shrank in two-thirds of Wisconsin counties from 2009 to 2014.

The state ranks third in the nation for student loan debt.

Walker has worked with the state’s Republican leaders to restrict public access to government records and to eliminate laws and agencies designed to ferret out corruption.

Against this backdrop, Walker will have to regain the public’s confidence to run again. Walker’s approval rating dropped to 37 percent during his failed and heavily mocked presidential campaign last year. Wisconsinites were turned off by not only by the many gaffes he made on the campaign trail, but also the many months he spent outside the state campaigning for president.

Walker also racked up huge costs to Wisconsin taxpayers to provide him with transportation and around-the-clock security.

Shortly before his tight 2014 reelection, Walker said he had no interest in a White House run.

In a public-relations effort to assure Wisconsinites that he’s still interested in the state, he is currently touring the state conducting invitation-only listening sessions. He says that he’s spending time thinking about the next 20 years for the state.

Walker and his wife Tonette are selling their house in a Milwaukee suburb. His personal financial problems, including a high level of consumer credit card debt were well documented by the press during his presidential campaign.

The two-story, three-bedroom colonial in Wauwatosa is on the market for $338,000. Walker tweeted Sunday night that with his sons in college, the couple is looking at downsizing.

See also: Scott Walker’s latest approval rating

GOP plots revenge on Legislative Audit Bureau, taxpayers will pay for it

[UPDATED at 3:40 p.m. on Wednesday, July 10, to add Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ position.]

The cheap thrill of retaliation has no place among elected officials who are paid to serve the public, not their egos. But some of Wisconsin’s Republican leaders are on a payback binge that’s noteworthy for the sweeping changes it will make to the nature of democracy in the state and the irreparable harm it will wreak on our quality of life.

The most disturbing recent Republican attack is on the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau, which has provided citizens and lawmakers alike with honest, reliable investigations of waste, fraud, abuse, inefficiencies, and cronyism in state government since 1966. Unsurprisingly, in doing so, the bureau has fallen into disfavor with Gov. Scott Walker and some of his supporters.

A series of LAB and external audits have found that Walker’s much-touted “job creation” agency — the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation — lost track of $56 million worth of taxpayer-funded loans, lacked basic internal accounting controls and was staffed by unqualified Walker cronies.  LAB also found, among other shocking problems, that WEDC had written off more than $7.6 million in loans, including a $500,000 loan to an unqualified company owned by a major Walker donor.

Auditors discovered that WEDC didn’t even require the beneficiaries of its largesse to create jobs in Wisconsin and didn’t track the results of the loans that it made.

So now, in typical Walker fashion, he and his colleagues want to eliminate the bipartisan, fact-finding bureau and instead empower the Assembly speaker and the Senate majority leader — in other words, partisan leaders — to appoint investigators at their discretion. There’s nothing to compel those leaders to launch fair, impartial investigations that might harm their interests.

Aside from investigating WEDC, the bureau has conducted numerous other audits that have provided lawmakers with information that’s critical to budget planning and policy-making decisions.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said he will never support eliminating the LAB, and we urge readers to contact him directly and support his stance — and to hold him to it.

Besides eliminating the LAB, Walker and legislative Republicans have also decided to fire scientists from the Department of Natural Resources who worked on issues related to climate change, pollution and mining. The GOP has been out to get the state’s environmental scientists ever since they refused to automatically green-light an iron ore pit mine in northern Wisconsin that could have devastated the area’s watershed and polluted Lake Superior.

Walker was humiliated over DNR scientists’ insistence on researching the consequences of the mine, because the mining company that proposed the project had given him $700,000. He’d empowered representatives of the company to rewrite the state’s mining regulations so the project could move forward.

There are numerous other examples of Walker dishing out payback lessons, possibly including his elimination of state funding for the Wisconsin Transportation Alternatives Program, which supported projects for cycling and walking paths. He also floated the idea of imposing a tax on bike sales to pay for bike lanes on roadways.

Both actions were seen as retaliation against his 2014 Democratic gubernatorial opponent Mary Burke, whose family owns Trek Bicycle.  That might sound too petty to be true, but sadly it’s not. Apparently, nothing is.

Scott Walker’s massive economic failure

Scott Walker was elected governor on the promise that he’d create 250,000 jobs in Wisconsin by 2015. 

But Walker’s impact on job growth in Wisconsin has been disastrous. Under his tenure, Wisconsin has lagged consistently behind the rest of the region. The state has lost 31,027 jobs since Walker and GOP majorities came into office – the second worse job creation record in the nation (behind New Jersey).

As we reach Walker’s mid-term, let’s review how he brought us to this point. Walker began his gubernatorial tenure by turning down $800 million in federal stimulus money to bring high-speed rail to Wisconsin. That action cost jobs and infrastructure improvements that would have contributed to long-term growth.

In turning down the money, Walker appeased his tea party base, which opposes all government spending. His excuse to everyone else was that eventually the state would have to pick up a portion of the rail’s operating costs. He failed to consider, however, the jobs and economic activity it would have generated, including contributions to the tax base.

In response to Walker’s action, the Spanish train-manufacturing company Talgo abandoned a facility in the Milwaukee area that was projected to add up to 600 jobs. Talgo is now suing the state for breach of contract and the company refuses to turn over new trains that have already cost the state $42 million.

Walker’s economic management has only gone downhill from there. Huge cuts to public sector employment have significantly reduced state and local governments’ budget shortfalls as intended, but they’ve also had a crippling ripple effect throughout the state’s economy, lowering the tax base and causing tremendous suffering.

In a move that was praised by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and corporate-right groups, Walker dismantled the Department of Commerce and created the Wisconsin Economic Development Council, a public-private sector partnership that was supposed to give loans to promising businesses in Wisconsin to help them grow. Walker staffed the council with unqualified cronies with no background in the field.

WEDC’s mismanagement and complete lack of public oversight has so far resulted in $9 million in defaulted loans and the unexplained disappearance of $56 million. That money came from gas taxes, the federal mortgage settlement that was paid to the state and other public funding sources. WEDC has also been charged with bid-rigging schemes to give no-strings handouts to Walker’s political supporters and cronies. He’s fine with spending public money as long as it’s given to his friends without any accountability. 

Corporate right donations have successfully propagandized the public to believe Walker’s policies have been an economic success, even as Wisconsin recorded a net job loss from January to November 2012. Republicans, who now once again have total control over state government, are currently focusing their efforts on devising strategies to make it more difficult for traditional Democratic voters to cast ballots and for women to have access to reproductive medical care.

With gerrymandered legislative districts that ensure Republicans control of the state for the next decade, progressives are going to have to work on educating the public in order to minimize further deterioration of the state’s economy.