Last April I wrote about many complaints I received concerning rides to medical appointments for folks in BadgerCare and other Medicaid programs.
People complained drivers didn’t show up, rides were late, drivers didn’t arrive for the return trip home and – at least in one case – the heater did not work in a van taking an elderly woman for her dialysis appointment.
Often patients were told no drivers were available. But local transportation companies told me they were not getting enough business. Local drivers thought the St. Louis-based contractor, Medical Transportation Management, Inc. (MTM) favored a few large companies over small local ones. MTM is the statewide Non-Emergency Medical Transportation ‘broker’ the state hired to arrange rides for eligible patients.
“When do we return the economic development initiative and the checkbook to the control of a state agency?” John Dunn of Mauston asked in a letter to Legislators. “The WEDC has again failed to follow state law and its own policies in awarding taxpayer-funded incentives to state companies. We need accountability to taxpayers.”
Not following the law, and not acting in a transparent and accountable way is a frequent criticism of the state’s economic development operations.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), created in 2011 as an independent authority, fell under criticism again with the recent release of another audit showing that WEDC failed to follow state laws and its own policies when awarding grants, loans and tax credits to businesses and failed to independently verify whether or not promised jobs were actually created.
“Why is it I keep hearing more about what’s in the governor’s budget?” the woman asked me. “Don’t you see it all at once and then decide what to do?”
It can be difficult for legislators to know the full effect of cuts without the critical input of citizens.
For example, news of cuts to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) made its way to western Wisconsin. Constituents communicated back to me the effect of these cuts. Through emails, phone calls and office visits I was able to piece together the real effect of a few lines of DNR budget cuts.
“Why doesn’t the press cover what’s happening with refundable tax credits?” I asked the journalist. We were chatting about what I found in the state budget.
“Because the press doesn’t understand them,” she told me.
“Doesn’t understand them?” I thought. “There has to be an easy way to describe what’s happening...”