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Sunday Feedback: Crack down on jobs agency, don't close it

12:57 PM, May 15, 2013  |  Comments
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Each Wednesday afternoon, we post online a draft version of the next Sunday's editorial. We want to know what you think! Leave us your feedback in a comment on this story, on our Facebook page, via Twitter by tweeting to @WDHOpinions or by emailing opinion@wdhprint.com.

We'll incorporate reader feedback into the final version of the editorial, and on Sunday we'll publish selections of the responses on the topic. Please share your thoughts by the end of the day Thursday.

Strict oversight needed on economic development

It is not a stretch to make a connection between these two things: Wisconsin's job creation has been sluggish, and the main agency tasked with creating jobs, the public-private Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., has been riddled with scandal, lousy procedures, incompetence or worse. An audit released this month by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau painted a deeply troubling picture of failed policies and wasted money.

Some are now calling for the agency to be disbanded, or for funding to be withheld in the state's new budget. Under pressure, Republican lawmakers last week introduced a set of policies intended to introduce some accountability to the department that has long been lacking.

We share lawmakers' frustration with the agency's failures. And more information needs to be brought out about precisely why those failures occurred.

But we cannot join the calls to disband the agency. We endorse the policies added by Madison Republicans - and the efforts to create will oversight of the agency. The state needs WEDC to work.

Under new provisions Republicans have proposed adding to the state budget, the agency would be subject to new ethics and financial disclosure laws. Perhaps more importantly, though, WEDC would not be allowed to spend any money in the second year of the state budget until it demonstrated that it had made improvements and was complying with state statutes.

Those provisions stop short of calls to end WEDC or completely hold up funding in the immediate term. But a functioning economic development agency is vital to Wisconsin. The measures proposed would add real new accountability measures while still allowing the agency to operate.

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