WEDC credibility called into question - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

WEDC credibility called into question


MADISON (WKOW) -- The head of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation may have a tough road ahead of him if the past few days are any indication.

Members of the Senate Economic Development Committee confirmed Reed Hall as the Chief Executive Officer of the WEDC Tuesday morning.

But first, they wanted an explanation from Hall as to why he asked the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) for a $200 million loan to give to start-up businesses last fall.

SWIB, which manages Wisconsin's pension system, denied the request, saying that investing the money with WEDC was simply too risky.

"They made that decision, I accept that decision.  So, we look elsewhere for those funds," Hall told Committee members. 

SWIB made that decision months after WEDC lost track of $56 million dollars in unpaid loans in 2012.

But Rep. Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford), the Assembly Majority Leader, says that poor track record had nothing to do with a change to the GOP mining bill he announced Monday.

The original bill provided for 40 percent of all mining tax revenue to go to WEDC for job creation efforts.

But an amendment proposes putting that money into the legislature's general fund instead.

"So, we made it consistent for what we do with most corporate taxes, it goes to the general fund," said Rep. Suder.

Assembly Minority Leader and WEDC Board member Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) says he isn't necessarily sold on that answer.

"You know, I think that there are many legislators that feel they're questioning whether WEDC was really the right decision to make the transformation from Commerce to WEDC," said Rep. Barca, referring to the old Department of Commerce which the WEDC replaced.

As for Hall, he knows he has some work to do on WEDC's image.

"I think we need to re-establish our credibility, which we are," said Hall.

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