Wisconsin Economic Development dissed just like Fiddy

By   /   February 5, 2013  /   No Comments

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — WEDC just can’t get no love these days.

First the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. gets shot down by the state’s public pension fund manager, then Republican leadership pulls out proposed tax proceeds in a mining bill.

Why, all that rejection’s got to make a quasi-public group feel as unloved as 50 Cent at the Grammy Awards (My man Fiddy been nominated more than a dozen times for a Grammy and never took home the bling-bling solo).

As Wisconsin Reporter broke late last week, WEDC made the State of Wisconsin Investment Board an offer it could refuse.

In late December, WEDC asked SWIB, manager of the state’s $76 billion Wisconsin Retirement System, if SWIB would like to make a $200-million “allocation” to help launch a state venture capital program.

Gangsta rapper 50 Cent gets no love from the powers that be.

In a letter to SWIB, WEDC Chief Executive Officer Reed Hall explained that he was turning to the pension fund manager because a WEDC-run seed capital initiative would likely find it harder to tap private investors “due to a lack of demonstrable track records.”

“Given that some of these funds may be managed by first-time fund managers, the issue arises of where to turn for the outside investment,” Hall wrote.

Or, as Fiddy put it in P-I-M-P, a song that reached No. 2 on the New Zealand top 40 charts but got no love from the Grammy’s:

“Come get money with me, if you curious to see
how it feels to be with a P-I-M-P
Roll in the Benz with me, you could watch TV
From the backseat of my V, I’m a P-I-M-P …
If ever you needed someone, I’m the one you should call
I’ll be there to pick you up, if ever you should fall
If you got problems, I can solve’em, they big or they small”

SWIB politely declined WEDC’s proposal.

“The challenge for SWIB is to make sure that any new programs it engages in, such as economic development, does not have any adverse effect on its management of WRS assets,” the agency said in a letter to WEDC.

In other words, playa, you trippin’ if you think SWIB’s giving you any cheese (Easy Cheeseheads – cheese means money).

“… (U)se of WRS trust fund monies to fund economic development initiatives does not meet our fiduciary duty,” the agency added.

SWIB isn’t afraid to stretch out its investments. Over the past 12 years, the agency has put up $305 million to its Wisconsin Private Equity Portfolio, representing about 20 percent of SWIB’s total venture capital commitments.

Maybe SWIB was in a tizzle, anything but shizzle, after WEDC lost track of a $56 million economic development loan portfolio.

Accountability failures aside, it would seem the 2-year old economic development group, the creation of Gov. Scott Walker, is no longer Tha Shiznit!

WEDC was dissed yet again on Monday when Republican lawmakers announced amendments to a mining bill that would cut the development agency out of mining tax proceeds.

Wisconsin Reporter last month reported WEDC would pocket 40 percent of annual tax proceeds from a proposed Northwoods iron-ore mine project, with no strings attached, under a Republican-led mining regulation reform bill.

Let’s just say WEDC critics weren’t down with that.

Attempting to find some common ground on the contentious mining bill, Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, and Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, submitted amendments, including “alterations on cash flow from mining tax proceeds.” If the amendments pass, WEDC loses its 40-percent scratch.

“Under these amendments, the remaining 40 percent would instead be transferred to the state’s general fund,” the proposal states.

But don’t worry about old WEDC, Walker’s stand-in for the publicly funded and questionably effective former state Department of Commerce. WEDC grabbed nearly $67 million in taxpayer supported general purpose revenues alone in the previous biennium. And with job creation Job 1 for Walker, fellow Republicans, and Democrats alike, don’t be surprised if WEDC picks up a lot more cheese over the next couple of years.

Like 50 Cent said in “Straight to the Bank,” another Grammy diss to Fiddy:

“I got the kind of money that the bank can’t hold
Got it off the street movin’ bundles and loads …

I’m internationally known as the kid with the flow
That brings enough dough it’s never enough dough”

Contact M.D. Kittle at mkittle@wisconsinreporter.com

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M.D. Kittle