State Government and Political Roundup: Job picture up or down, depending on your political party
Wisconsin's job picture is either exciting or lackluster, depending on which political party you believe.
Republicans call these "exciting times," after the government's most complete employer survey showed that Wisconsin created 62,000 jobs in Governor Scott Walker's first two years in office. The new numbers do not compare Wisconsin to other states - and Democrats said the comparison from three months ago showed that Wisconsin had the 44th-lowest percentage of job growth. State Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha said the state might not be so far behind in job creation quote, "If Republicans spent half as much time creating jobs, as they do spinning lackluster job numbers." GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Burlington declared the Wisconsin economy "back on track." State workforce development spokesman John Dipko says his agency remains committed to pushing toward Walker's goal of creating a quarter-million jobs by the end of 2014. The state's about a quarter of the way there, at the halfway point of Walker's current term.
A Tea Party group in Texas said the IRS asked them last year about their involvement in the verifying of petition signatures for Governor Scott Walker's recall election. The Northeast Tarrant Tea Party in Fort Worth said federal tax agents wanted extensive information about all of the group's activities. The IRS is on the hot seat for improperly examining conservative groups that asked for tax-exempt status - which critics say is meant to discourage free speech. Julie McCarty, the group's president, said the IRS wanted to know about the group's involvement with "Verify the Recall" - in which a number of conservative groups checked whether 900-thousand signatures for last year's Walker recall vote were genuine. McCarty tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that her group's work with the project was minimal. She doesn't know why the IRS asked about it and quote, "I know I don't trust them." The IRS did not comment. McCarty said her group was targeted unfairly, and it's still waiting for a decision from the IRS on its tax-exempt status. If that decision doesn't come by today, the American Center for Law and Justice says it will take legal action on the Tea Party's behalf.
Wisconsin's job creation agency would be audited every year, under a bill introduced by state lawmakers from both parties. Right now, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is supposed to audited every two years - and the first audit of the two-year-old agency angered lawmakers concerned about a lack of accountability. The new bill also requires that WEDC board members be appointed to fixed terms, instead of serving for as long as the governor wishes. A recent audit found that the public-private job agency did not adopt certain policies required by state law - and it did not keep proper track of grants-and-loans it made to businesses for creating jobs. The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee is holding back extra funds for the WEDC until it can show that it has made improvements.
The FBI was reportedly involved in a flawed undercover sting operation in Milwaukee last year, but the agency pulled out after finding numerous problems. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives ran the operation, which used a fake storefront to try and attract criminals and their guns. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has cited numerous flaws, including the theft of $40,000 in merchandise, and the theft of a machine gun from an agent's vehicle. The paper said it obtained a letter from members of House and Senate judiciary committee, which said the FBI pulled out after two months due to quote, "concerns about the operation's proposed uses of intelligence, operational security, and staffing." The letter also said the ATF has inadequate policies and procedures for running storefront operations like the one in Milwaukee. The Journal Sentinel also said A-T-F agents allowed a man with a gun to walk out of the store last summer without arresting him or seizing the weapon. He was supposed to return to the shop to sell the gun, but he never did. Four months later, the man was arrested in neighboring Minnesota for drunk driving.