October 22, 2014

Transparency of economic development programs questioned

A new report shows a lack of transparency in state economic development programs.

The review by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group found taxpayers have very little access to information about whether millions of dollars invested in economic development subsidies over the past four years actually produced any benefits for the state. WISPIRG director Bruce Speight says that’s despite legislative action that was supposed to improve transparency.

A recent state audit found similar problems with subsidies awarded by state agencies.

Of 251 completed projects added to an online database between 2009 and 2010, the WISPIRG report says just two had performance results posted as required by law. Speight says that leaves the public in the dark about how more than $8.2 million was used and whether it helped created jobs or resulted in other benefits for the state.

WISPIRG wants lawmakers to impose stricter requirements on subsidy recipients to report their results and to make sure all of that information is posted on a state website for the public to see. The group also wants to know what the state is doing when subsidized businesses fail to meet benchmarks. State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) plans to introduce a bill next session that would make sure the information is shared with the public.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:16)