Gov.-elect Tony Evers confirmed Tuesday he will attempt to dissolve a jobs agency created by Gov. Scott Walker.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is a public-private jobs agency that works with partners statewide to develop the workforce in Wisconsin.
In an email to The Badger Herald, WEDC secretary and CEO Mark Hogan said the agency wants Evers to fully understand the work WEDC does throughout the state.
“I look forward to working with Governor-elect Evers to better understand his priorities and how he can build off of what is already a strong foundation for economic development,” Hogan said.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Evers thinks economic development should be part of the state government, rather than public-private partnerships.
“Making sure that money is created and shared locally is what’s going to make this state a better place to live,” Evers told WSJ.
Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, co-chair of the state Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, criticized Evers’ decision Tuesday via Twitter.
According to Nygren, preserving the WEDC should be a bipartisan effort.
Preserving the @WEDCNews should be a bipartisan effort. Since its inception, WEDC has helped create or retain over 58,000 jobs in @AssemblyDemsWI districts with $5.7B in economic impact. Dissolving the WEDC could directly impact thousands of jobs for WI citizens. https://t.co/StqSfk2xUm
— John Nygren (@rep89) November 20, 2018
WSJ added Republican lawmakers may act soon to protect the WEDC by possibly enacting a law before Evers takes office.
According to University of Wisconsin economics professor Noah Williams, abolishing the WEDC without a replacement would substantially impact grant, loan and incentive programs that have contributed to economic expansion in Wisconsin.
“After early difficulties with [the] administration, the WEDC seems to be functioning much better of late, and simply eliminating it would put the state at a competitive disadvantage,” Williams said.
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This is the first time Evers publicly confirmed his intention to dissolve the WEDC since his campaign. Before the elections, Evers made intentions to move economic development functions back to the Department of Commerce, WSJ reported.
Nygren, however, claimed that reverting development responsibilities back to the Department of Commerce is “a recipe for overburdensome government regulation” which would stifle Wisconsin’s economic “comeback.”
Williams added that while a fully public agency would be more transparent, it could be subject to political pressure. The ability of any agency to respond to the business sector’s needs quickly may be compromised in the move to becoming fully public.
But UW College Democrats Vice Chair Claudia Koechell said WEDC benefits large corporations, rather than college graduates looking for high-paying jobs.
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“[Evers] has plans to focus on small-business owners and entrepreneurs to create jobs for everyone, including recent grads, and will stimulate Wisconsin’s economy as a whole,” Koechell said.