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Bi-Partisan WEDC Fraud Bill Receives Public Hearing PDF Print E-mail
Written by GBP Staff   
Wednesday, 13 January 2016 12:46


Legislation introduced by Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem) and Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) aims to crack down on individuals and businesses that commit fraud when applying for economic development assistance.

MADISON - Bi-partisan legislation aimed at cracking down on individuals and businesses that commit fraud when applying for economic development assistance from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation took its first step toward passage when it received a public hearing before the Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy.

Samantha KerkmanAssembly Bill 669 was introduced by Representative Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem) and Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) in response to two recent high-profile cases where Wisconsin taxpayers lost $1.5 million after the applicants were alleged to have left out information that would have led to their applications for assistance being denied.

“Whether it’s $200 in the FoodShare program or $200,000 from WEDC, fraud is fraud,” said Rep. Kerkman. “Sufficient deterrents to fraud help support a strong WEDC, and a strong WEDC helps build a strong economy.”

In 2011 William Minihan, the owner of Building Committee, Inc., used a $500,000 loan from taxpayers to pay off a lease he held on a fleet of luxury cars. In 2015 it was revealed that Ron Van Den Heuvel, owner of Green Box was being investigated for lying on his application in which he received a $1.12 million taxpayer loan from WEDC. Investigators allege he used the taxpayer money to in part pay off his personal loans.

dave-hansen“This type of fraud, because of the large numbers involved, can cost taxpayers millions in a single case. Committing economic assistance fraud steals from all the people of this state, deprives honest business owners from getting the help they need to grow their businesses here and ultimately hurts workers,” said Hansen. “A strong message needs to be sent that if you commit this type of fraud you are going to pay a high price.”

AB-669 creates the crime of committing fraud in applying for economic development assistance. Those found guilty could be sentenced up to 15 years in prison and face fines up to $50,000. In addition, that individual or business they represent could be denied future assistance for seven years.

Wisconsin ACT Scores Plummet PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wisconsin Senate Democrats   
Wednesday, 13 January 2016 12:09

students-testingState drops from 2nd best to 9th worst in the nation. Drop in ACT scores is particularly concerning given Wisconsin’s ongoing economic challenges, workforce shortages and shrinking middle class.

Gov. Walker, Legislative Republicans Do Not Take Student Loan Crisis Seriously PDF Print E-mail
Written by Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Brandon Weathersby   
Tuesday, 12 January 2016 16:01

student-loansMADISON - Since 2011, Wisconsin has risen to the third highest percentage of college graduates with student loan debt. Under the tutelage of Governor Scott Walker and Legislative Republicans, loan borrowers have seen very little assistance in the way of relief and the GOPs latest scheme denies any real help to nearly one million borrowers in the state struggling with their crushing loan burden.

martha-laning"Democrats have led on this issue since 2013 when Senator Dave Hansen and Representative Cory Mason introduced the 'Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act'," Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Martha Laning said on Tuesday. "Their bill is an innovative state solution that puts money back into the pockets of Wisconsin’s student loan borrowers, and in turn back into our state economy."

The "Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act" creates a state based authority to help student loan borrowers refinance their debt at lower rates, just like you can with a mortgage and extends a state tax break to student loan payments. These simple, commonsense measures were allowed to languish in committee by Gov. Walker and his Republican controlled legislature.

Nationally, student loan debt totals $1.3 trillion dollars and counting. For nearly one million Wisconsin student loan borrowers with $19 billion in student loan debt, Gov. Walker and Republicans still oppose law changes to allow the refinancing of student loans at lower interest rates.

Despite refinancing for student loans being incredibly popular with Wisconsinites, Gov. Walker refused to meet with Democratic legislators and discuss a student loan debt refinancing proposal. The outcome for student loan borrowers is that instead of a plan to significantly reduce the burden for individuals in debt, Gov. Walker cobbled together a grab bag of ineffective proposals introduced solely by Republican legislators to rush through the legislative process just in time for the election year.

Walker supported hundreds of millions of dollars in spending cuts for public universities that shifted more of the cost onto families, leading many to take out loans to cover the cost of earning a degree. A report from the Wisocnsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau found that 41,000 college students were denied need-based grants during the 2013-2014 academic year due to a lack of funding.

"Governor Scott Walker and Republicans can't be serious about student loan debt in Wisconsin. If they were they'd take advantage of the innovative, commonsense ideas proposed by Democrats to provide significant relief for borrowers," said Laning. "It makes no sense to give taxpayer dollars away to the big banks and refuse to allow borrowers to refinance their student loans at lower rates just like the do with their care or home -- but that's exactly what Walker has done here in Wisconsin."

Speed and Secrecy Kill Democracy in Wisconsin PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District   
Tuesday, 12 January 2016 13:18

walker-senate-signingAs the Republican leadership in Madison rush to move complex and controversial bills through the legislative process, legislators and the public don’t have access to changes in proposals offered until just before committee hearings. Thoughtful and meaning dialog on the impact of complex legislation is compromised when speedy passage becomes more important than open debate.

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