Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wisconsin Economic Development: Walker's Untraceable Slush Fund

What a novel idea...actually holding someone accountable for the things they claim they will do.

"Wisconsin's Legislative Audit Bureau found that stat government agencies have incomplete data on the impact of economic development programs they administer."

"In the 2007-'11 period, state agencies administered 196 economic development programs, according to the report. But state auditors said it was difficult to determine how many jobs actually had resulted from the programs."

Ah, the beauty of nepotism and cronyism. I guess this is what should be expected when private interests dominate public agencies.

The article goes on to note, "Last July, the Commerce Department was abolished and replaced with the partially privatized Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. But a new state law reduced the the information on program results the state agencies must report to the Legislature annually."

Yes, after privatizing a public agency, less information is required. We are using public dollars to fund private ventures, and we are now requiring less information on the results of those investments. How is this an improvement in any way? How can we evaluate what works if we don't monitor what's going on?

"Among information no longer required are quantifiable performance measures directly related to a programs' purpose, including the number of jobs created or retained in each industry and in each municipality in the prior fiscal year. Also, agencies aren't required to report the amount of tax benefits allocated - nor the recipients of them - under the new rules."

Sounds like certain politicians (yes, I'm looking at you Scott Walker) have set up an untraceable quasi-private slush-fund to funnel money to cronies. So much for the era of transparent government and doing  what's in the best interest of the people. So much for wisely spending public dollars.

I hope to see a lot more stories about this. I hope to see journalists questioning the Walker administration about this. It may not be corrupt, but everything on the surface seems to indicate this whole apparatus is nothing but an undetectable payback machine for well-connected political supporters.

How can Scott Walker plan to know which development policies are working if records aren't kept on the costs and the rewards (or losses)? How can we make meaningful decisions and adjustments if benchmarking isn't done? It almost seems ludicrous that such seemingly corrupt and unmeasurable practices are now codified into state operations.

For Further Reading:
Evaluation of Online Economic Development Subsidy Information
Evaluation of State Economic Development Subsidy Disclosure
Money Back Guarantees For Taxpayers
Money For Something
The Risk of Privatizing State Economic Development Agencies
Targeting Ineffective Economic Development Subsidies

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