The Wisconsin State Senate unanimously passed a bill that includes numerous reforms to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).
Senate Bill 205, authored by Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) and Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Randall), was the only WEDC reform package that has received bipartisan support this legislative session.
The reforms were proposed after a Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) report that identified numerous problems with financial management, program administration and accountability at the corporation. “I am happy to see this bill pass through the Senate with unanimous support. Wisconsin needs to stay committed to economic development, but must also ensure that our efforts are measurable and accountable to taxpayers,” Cowles said.
Most notably, the legislation will:
* Increase the frequency of financial audits of WEDC to an annual basis.
* Require that WEDC adopt transparent and appropriate procurement procedures.
* Set term limits for members of the WEDC board.
* Create a governance committee on the WEDC board, led by a new lead director.
* Subject most WEDC employees to state ethics laws.
* Require that WEDC include additional information it its annual report to the Legislature about its economic development programs.
Meanwhile, the WEDC reported today that Wisconsin’s Qualified New Business Venture (QNBV) program helped 63 early stage companies directly leverage more than $48.4 million in private investment in 2012, an increase of 9 percent from 2011.
The report also showed that early stage companies still face a significant financial gap as they try to bring new innovations to market.
“The results of the QNBV program have been overwhelmingly positive,” said Gov. Scott Walker. “This program, which has become a model in other states, has successfully leveraged investment in promising new companies in Wisconsin that are creating high-paying jobs.”
The Wisconsin Assembly is continuing to meet today to discuss the proposed state budget.