Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point)

Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point)

The two Republican members of the board overseeing the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation want to remove legislators from the panel.

Legislation being circulated at the Capitol would eliminate the four legislative positions on the 12 member board, replacing them with representative from the private sector. State Sen. Rick Gudex (R-Fond du Lac), who holds one of those seats, believes the change would help the agency more effectively pursue its mission of job creation. “At a time when we’re trying to find employees, trying to match employers with employees…it makes more sense to have people who actually have that experience be on the board and make those decisions,” said the Fond du Lac Republican.

The push comes just after Governor Scott Walker was removed as the chairman of the WEDC board earlier this year.

Democrats who sit on the board argue it’s an attempt by Republicans to further distance themselves from the troubled agency, following a series of critical state audits and reports that WEDC staff failed to properly track or evaluate millions of dollars in loans made to businesses. Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) said “for them to think that their idea of reforming this agency is to remove the only board members that are directly responsible to taxpayers, I think is an extremely bad idea.”

Gudex and fellow GOP board member Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) argue there would still be many other layers of legislative oversight, even without them sitting on the board. Hutton noted that multiple committees, the Legislative Audit Bureau, and legislation will still allow them to respond to issues at WEDC.

Lassa maintains that she thinks “the people of Wisconsin, given the troubles that have dogged it since its creation, want greater oversight of WEDC…not less.”

The bill is currently being circulated for co-sponsors at the Capitol.

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