Once again, the Kauffman Foundation has pegged Wisconsin as the worst state in the nation for startup activity.
And it’s not even close.
The state has received the worst scores in the U.S. for new business creation from the foundation since 2015. The last-place rankings have been a source of hand-wringing for policymakers and other figures in the state’s entrepreneurial economy, and have spurred forums and panels about what the state can do differently.
In the latest report released Thursday, Wisconsin’s score is even lower than last year’s. The state immediately ahead in the rankings, Alabama, outpaces the Badger State by a considerable margin.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. still doesn’t do a good job of tracking how many jobs it creates and the agency struggles in other areas — even as it has improved how it hands out state taxpayer dollars — according to a new legislative audit.
The Legislative Audit Bureau reported Wednesday:
The six-year-old job-creation agency “cannot be certain about the number of jobs it has created or retained” and must improve the accuracy of the numbers reported in its online database.
The agency’s uncollectable loan balance has grown from $1.3 million in December 2014 to $11 million as of December 2016, a sign of the agency’s early problems not properly vetting companies to which it awarded taxpayer loans and the tab that is now coming due.
The agency failed to comply with state law by not independently verifying jobs-related information submitted by tax credit recipients.
Amid an explosion of questions about President Donald Trump’s handling of Russia and the FBI, House Speaker Paul Ryan signaled his ongoing support for Trump Wednesday while pledging to “follow the facts wherever they may lead.”Ryan’s remarks were another illustration of the fierce cross-pressures felt by Republicans in Congress as the White House has endured a cascade of escalating crises and controversies.
Ryan tried to assure fellow Republicans that the House is going to keep legislating amid the uproar and that GOP leadership is still behind the president.
On May 9, Republican leaders of the state legislature’s budget committee voted to restore a previously troubled loan program at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and defended their decision to proceed despite knowing a new audit report on WEDC would be released this week.
Now lawmakers from both parties say those audit findings show it might have been wise to wait.
The Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) report released Wednesday shows WEDC’s business loan program has more revolving unpaid debt now than ever before.
“The potentially uncollectable balance of loans with repayments 90 days or more past due increased from $1.3 million on December 31, 2014, to $11 million on December 31, 2016,” the LAB states in its report.