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Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive

Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive

Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive. Before moving to Green Bay in 2008, he was the Assistant Director of Human Resources for Milwaukee County. A graduate of UWM in 1971, he moved to Madison, where he was Executive Personnel Officer and Technology Manager for the State Department of Employment Relations. He is a former Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of Brown County, Director at the Human Resources Management Association of S.E. Wisconsin (now SHRM), and Technology Commission Chair for the City of Franklin. Bob is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force (1965-1971).

It's Time to End the Scandals at WEDC

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 19 May 2015
in Wisconsin

walkerNew questions about a $500,000 loan granted by Gov. Scott Walker's troubled Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to a donor follow allegations that nearly $585 million of the $975 million in taxpayer assistance provided by WEDC went to companies that had contributed to Walker’s campaign.


MADISON - Over the weekend, the Wisconsin State Journal broke another story about Gov. Scott Walker's troubled Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). This time, it appears that WEDC may have granted at least one loan totaling $500,000 as a favor to one of the governor’s campaign contributors.

The State Journal reported that Gov. Scott Walker’s top aides and a powerful lobbyist pressed in 2011 to award a $500,000 unsecured loan to Building Committee Inc., owned by William Minahan, for a proposed project to retrofit bank and credit union buildings for energy efficiency. The taxpayer-funded loan eventually lost the state half a million dollars, created no jobs and raised questions about where the money went.

This recent revelation follows allegations that nearly $585 million of the $975 million in taxpayer assistance provided by WEDC went to companies that had contributed to Governor Walker’s campaign either directly or indirectly.

Equally troubling was the recent audit that found that staff at WEDC ignored both WEDC policy and state law while providing taxpayer assistance to companies under questionable circumstances. A number of companies actually outsourced Wisconsin jobs to foreign countries after receiving taxpayer assistance that were supposed to be used to create jobs here in Wisconsin.

dave_hansenSenator Dave Hansen (D - Green Bay) has been a consistent critic of the Governor's use of the WEDC as the State's primary economic development tool since 2011.

According to Hansen  “Recent news stories concerning the approval of a $500,000 loan from WEDC to a wealthy donor of the Governor serves to confirm what we have been saying for years, that WEDC is a failed model for economic development that is ripe for corruption."

“Unfortunately those of us who said that WEDC was a failed model from the start have seen our prediction come true. After wasting millions of taxpayer dollars amid numerous scandals and changes in staff, it is time to admit that the WEDC model is a failure and scrap it in favor of a more open and transparent model that is truly accountable to the taxpayers," Hansen added.

Short of closing down WEDC the Governor should clean house from top to bottom, put in place stronger methods of accountability that hold all company officers accountable for failing to repay taxpayer loans or create Wisconsin jobs, and close the loopholes that allow taxpayer dollars to be used by companies that outsource Wisconsin jobs.

Or maybe, as Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D - Alma) argued recently, we should just go back the a Department of Commerce.

Hansen's conclusion: "With Wisconsin’s economy still continuing to lag our neighbors and the nation we can no longer afford the kind of failure that WEDC has become synonymous with.”

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Republicans Block Student Loan Reform

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 13 May 2015
in Wisconsin

joint-finance-statebud800,000 Wisconsin residents carry on average nearly $30,000 in student loans. Republicans more concerned with helping their corporate friends than average families.


MADISON - Republicans who control the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee blocked passage of an amendment that would have made it possible for thousands of Wisconsin residents to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates.

dave_hansen“It is unfortunate that Republicans controlling the Joint Finance Committee chose to protect the profits of big banks on Wall Street than the financial health of thousands of Wisconsinites who could save real money if they were able to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates,” said senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), author of the Higher Ed/Lower Debt bill that would create a student loan refinancing program.

Currently 815,000 Wisconsin residents carry nearly $20 billion in student loan debt with an average student loan debt of $28,000. Research shows that young people with student loan debt are less likely to buy a home or new car while older people with student loan debt are less likely to be able to send their children to college or save for their own retirement.

“We had a chance today to help thousands of people refinance their student loans to lower their cost like you can already do for a home or auto loan. Helping them lower their interest rates makes it possible for them to buy new homes and cars and help grow our economy. And by doing that we can help stop the “brain drain” too by giving college graduates a very strong incentive to stay here rather than move to another state.”

“Unfortunately, the Republican members of the Joint Finance Committee appear more concerned with helping their corporate friends rather than helping average families.”

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Governor Walker’s WEDC Failure

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Friday, 08 May 2015
in Wisconsin

walker-no-jobsAudit reveals additional problems at persistently troubled agency. Can Walker continue to evade responsibility?


MADISON – A new audit of Governor Scott Walker’s persistently troubled Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) released this month revealed another round of critical shortcomings.

Statutes require WEDC to develop and implement economic programs that provide support, expertise, and financial assistance to businesses that are investing and creating jobs in Wisconsin, as well as programs that support new business start-ups and business expansion and growth in the state.

Walker has held out the WEDC as the main tool of his administration to promote job development in Wisconsin. He claimed he could grow jobs by 250,000 in his first term. Instead, despite heavy outflows of taxpayer dollars to corporate friends and a huge income tax cut for the wealthy, Wisconsin continues to lag behind neighboring states as the nationwide economic recovery continues.

The Governor continues to claim "Good news for all of us in Wisconsin" with campaign style sunshine columns spread on the opinion pages of local newspapers. But the real record of the WEDC's failure is plain to see.

jennifer-shilling-2014Can Walker continue to evade responsibility? In response to the WEDC audit, Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) said:

“How many more years of failure do we have to put up with before Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans get serious about fixing the deep-rooted issues with this horribly mismanaged agency? As Chairman of the WEDC, Gov. Walker must accept responsibility for the ongoing financial mismanagement issues and troubling news of tax breaks going to companies who outsource Wisconsin jobs. Instead of dealing with these serious issues, Gov. Walker continues to shirk his responsibilities as he jets around the nation in pursuit of his presidential campaign ambitions.”

The WEDC Audit findings show continued problems with the agency. In summary, they were:

  • WEDC did not consistently follow statutes or its policies when making financial awards.
  • WEDC did not comply with all statutory requirements related to program oversight.
  • Staff did not consistently comply with policies established by WEDC’s governing board.
  • Additional efforts are needed to help ensure that WEDC administers its state-funded programs effectively.

The Governor’s 2015-17 Biennial Budget Proposal would combine WEDC and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) into the Forward Wisconsin Development Authority, a newly created organization that would begin operation on January 1, 2016, and administer economic development programs. That would provide the show of a reorganization, but little change to the underlining problems Walker faces in job development.

A copy of the audit report may be found here.

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Sluggish Revenue Numbers Reflect Irresponsible Republican Budgeting

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 07 May 2015
in Wisconsin

scottwalker-dreamMADISON - The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported this week that the state is on track for 3.7 percent growth this year as predicted in January, with no changes expected in the forecast for the next two years. That means the windfall revenue growth Gov. Scott Walker predicted in his re-election campaign last fall will not materialize to offset the $2.2 billion deficit he ran up in his first term.

The disappointing forecast forces the Republican-controlled Legislature to consider alternatives to reduce Walker's proposed budget cuts this year, including accounting moves, increasing borrowing, making other reductions or raising taxes and fees.

peter_barcaAccording to Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), who responded to the latest numbers that predict zero additional state revenue on Wednesday, “These weak revenue projections are another indication of the harm that three rounds of Republican budgeting, as well as their anemic economic development efforts, has done to our state".

While our neighboring states take advantage of an improving national economy and are experiencing large budget surpluses, Wisconsin continues to lag behind due to Republicans’ irresponsible budget choices and their poor economic development policies that have left Wisconsin 40th in the country in job growth. We can do better for the people of Wisconsin to ensure long-term economic prosperity.

Our community schools are hurting from Republicans’ actions and schools will continue to struggle even if Republicans restore their own proposed cuts. Time and again, Republicans have sold out Wisconsin schools and instead chosen massive tax giveaways for the corporate special interests and donors who fund Gov. Walker’s campaigns.

dave-hansen-gbAnd then there is the politically motivated decision by Walker not to accept $345 million in federal Medicaid money. According to Sen. Dave Hansen (D - Green Bay), “The recent revenue numbers from the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau confirm what many of us have been saying for some time now. It is time to put partisan politics and ambitions aside and reclaim $345 million of our federal tax dollars to strengthen BadgerCare and avoid unnecessary cuts to our schools and UW campuses.”

Perhaps Sen. Barca has the best conclusion, “The sad truth is that Gov. Walker’s presidential ambitions – which are being carried out by Republicans in the legislature – will harm Wisconsin communities for years to come.”

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Genrich Calls for Sensible Approach to School Testing

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 06 May 2015
in Wisconsin

students-testingBipartisan effort by Wisconsin Legislators seeks to lessen burden on students and teachers.


GREEN BAY - On Tuesday, State Representative Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay), along with a bipartisan group of 23 Wisconsin legislators, sent a letter to the Wisconsin Congressional delegation urging their support for legislation to eliminate annual federal testing requirements.

The Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act, introduced by Sen. Tester (D-Montana) in the Senate and Rep. Sinema (AZ-9) and Gibson (NY-19) in the House, replaces the current provision in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that requires every public school child to sit for an annual test in grades 3-8 and once in high school with one that instead requires testing in three grade spans: elementary, middle and high school.

eric-genrich"The current federally-required testing regime reduces instructional time, sidelines creativity in the classroom, and has not proved to be successful in the effort to improve academic success," said Genrich. "This legislation allows teachers to place more of the focus where it belongs: on classroom teaching and learning."

As the Congress moves to reauthorize the ESEA, a diverse set of lawmakers and advocates have stepped forward to support efforts to remove the burdensome annual federal testing requirements and empower local teachers and school boards to determine educational priorities.

Genrich continued, “Now is the right time to acknowledge that annual standardized tests do not drive student success. While we face an uphill battle in the fight to reduce unnecessary testing in our classrooms, I am encouraged by this bipartisan recognition of the need to free our students and teachers from a system of testing that has failed them.”

The U.S. Senate is anticipated to begin its floor debate on ESEA reauthorization later this month. Sen. Tester has pledged to offer his legislation as an amendment at that time.

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