Governor vows WEDC improvements, shrugs off rent-to-own defeat - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Governor vows WEDC improvements, shrugs off rent-to-own proposal defeat

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Governor Walker says clear policies will guide the actions of staff members of the troubled Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation in the future, as auditors detail the quasi-public agency's record-keeping and compliance failings.

At a Friday meeting of WEDC's board of directors, staff members with the Legislative Audit Bureau dissected key findings in a scathing report of WEDC activities. Among several problems, the report found the agency's staff failed to track loans, require payment when businesses missed job goals after receiving grants tied to employment, or monitor the purpose of employee expense account spending.

Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch says examples of poor record-keeping and compliance date back to WEDC's successor, the state commerce department. But the audit shows WEDC's performance in areas such as the receipt of required, quarterly reports from business customers was worse than the commerce department.

Walker noted problems exposed in the audit indicated no fraudulent practices, but confusion over policy implementation. Huebsch says a long-standing culture of more informal, policy application has been hard to break with business customers.

Walker says the creation of special committees to deal with the extension of credit, and other agency matters, are helping to streamline policies.

Walker also shrugged off state lawmakers' decision to nix his plan to exempt rent-to-own businesses from Wisconsin's consumer protection act.

Under the consumer protection act, rent-to-own companies must disclose their interest rates. Industry supporters say their transactions don't involve credit and as such shouldn't fall under the act. Walker's plan would have exempted them from the disclosure requirements and created new statutes specifically tailored to them.

A handful of Republican lawmakers sided with industry critics who insist the businesses prey on the poor and pressed the Legislature's budget committee to wipe out the governor's proposal. The committee deleted the provisions Thursday.

Walker told reporters Friday he believes rent-to-own business should have a right to operate in Wisconsin but new regulations for them were never a priority.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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