“I’m really uncomfortable with all these questions,” Linda told me. We were discussing the most recent audit of the state’s job creation agency: Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).
WEDC is a quasi-private entity formed by the governor in 2011 in an attempt to boost job creation. It is run almost entirely with state tax dollars.
A recently released Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) report adds detail to the agency’s administrative costs and management of economic development grants and loans in Fiscal Years 2011-12 and 2012-13.
“I don’t want another cent from the state until you guys pay the bills,” the business-owner from Durand told me. “I am tired of hearing about tax cuts and deficits.”
“I want all the bills paid: schools, roads, Medicaid, the tech colleges, the debt, all of them paid. Then talk to me about giving me my money back.”
News of the rising structural deficit going into the next state budget has many people offering advice about budgets. People aren’t happy about talk of a new round of tax cuts in the face of an expected $1.8 billion budget shortfall.
“The farmers are coming to me saying ‘we need drivers to get the corn to market. We need barges and trains to get the harvest to market.’” Barb Gronemus recently told me. “Kathleen you need to pay attention to problems with shipping grain.”
Former State Representative Barb Gronemus might be retired, but she’s still on duty answering the phone and making calls. One of those calls was to alert me to a growing problem farmers are facing getting grain to market. I began researching the situation and found former Rep. Gronemus was spot on.
Increased oil and sand shipments in the Midwest are delaying grain shipments. Some say the railroad companies are playing favorites because the oil industry pays a premium. Farmers worry they are losing money as their grain sits in storage instead of being transported to market.
“How is it possible that private voucher schools can receive almost four and a half times the state funding per student as our public school district receives in equalized aid,” Pepin School Superintendent Bruce Quinton wrote me.
As a new school year begins, students and parents see changes; for example, increased meal costs, larger class sizes, retiring teachers not replaced and fewer teachers’ aides. There are fewer janitors and delayed maintenance; longer bus rides and fewer field trips; fewer music and art classes.
Many public schools are forced to do more with less because lawmakers who voted for the last state budget increased state tax dollars to private schools. Nearly half of Wisconsin’s public schools will receive less aid this school year than the last – including many of our local schools.