Government and Political Roundup: Gov. Walker promises to fix the problems in the state's job creation agencyWisconsin News
-- Governor Scott Walker promises “dramatic moves” to fix the financial problems in the state’s job creation agency.
Governor Scott Walker promises “dramatic moves” to fix the financial problems in the state’s job creation agency. The Republican Walker said he would submit a series of reform proposals to the agency’s board when it meets today. Officials said this week that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation never kept track of loans it made to businesses to help them expand their workforces. As a result, up to 99 businesses are behind on an estimated eight-million dollars in its loan payments to the state. That’s about 16-percent of the total amount of job creation loans made by the public-private agency since it was formed in mid-2011 to replace the old state Commerce Department. The new department was Walker’s idea – and he said it’s just as important to be a “good steward” of tax dollars as well as help companies create jobs. The governor’s office would not disclose his proposals until they’re presented to the board. Corporation officials never brought up the loan problems to a legislative committee when it held a hearing on the agency’s operations this week. Panel co-chair Kathleen Vinehout called it “infuriating.” The Democratic senator from Alma said she’ll consider bringing those officials back to the panel – and she’s certain that an ongoing audit of the agency will explore the loan problems. Republican Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who recently joined the agency’s board, said most of the unpaid money apparently results from a single business loan.
If you think politicians have taken over your T-V, you’re almost right. A new report says Green Bay and Madison are among the nation’s Top-Five markets that had the largest numbers of campaign ads on T-V and radio last week. The ad-buying firm of S-M-G Delta said the Green Bay market had the most ads, followed by Denver, Cincinnati, Columbus Ohio, and Madison. For the political season as a whole, S-M-G says Wisconsin ranks ninth in the amount spent on campaign ads, at 32-million dollars. Florida is Number-One at 166-million, and Ohio is second at 160-million. President Obama had a firm lead over Republican Mitt Romney in the Wisconsin polls until after the debates began earlier this month. Now, the two are in virtual dead-heat in most independent polls.
Wisconsin’s Badger-Care-Plus program – which offers health care to the working poor – appears to be in trouble in the state’s most populated area. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says at least three-of-the-four major groups that provide Badger-Care services in southeast Wisconsin are losing millions-of-dollars on it. And at least one provider – United Health Care – will end its contract with the state in 12 days. The state reduced its payment rates to the providers by 11-percent in each of the last two years, as part of the effort to balance its budget. The state Health Services Department says it’s developing rates for next year which will guarantee that adequate health networks are in place to continue the Badger-Care coverage. In the meantime, about 174-thousand patients served by United Health Care will not be affected. Starting in November, the state will pay doctors and hospitals directly instead of going through United. Meanwhile, the Molina Health Care group – which manages Badger-Care-Plus for 42-thousand Wisconsinites – is also considering a pullout. Molina said it spent almost four-million dollars more in medical claims than the state reimbursed.
Wisconsinites can start voting on Monday in-person at municipal clerks’ offices. And both major parties are making a big push to encourage early voting, to try and give their candidates any possible edge in Wisconsin’s presidential and U-S Senate races – both of which are extremely close. Today, First Lady Michelle Obama will encourage early absentee voting when she speaks at rallies in Racine and Wausau. Former President Bill Clinton will do the same when he visits Green Bay tonight. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus has been on a bus tour with Senate Republican Ron Johnson and former Congressman Mark Green to promote early voting through the absentee process. In the 2008 presidential contest, one-of-every-five ballots were cast before Election Day. Under the election laws passed in the last session, the in-person early voting period will last for two weeks – and it will end at the close of business on Friday, November second.
A customer service provider in Neenah has added about 570 jobs this year – and another 130-plus jobs will be created by the start of the New Year. Governor Scott Walker helped Alta Resources highlight its growth during a ceremony this week. The firm provides customer service for other businesses – and it has doubled its workforce since 2007. Walker’s office said about 600 of the new jobs were created with the help of state tax credits. The company said the tax break was around a million-dollars. And as part of that deal, Alta promised to invest another million dollars in its facility.