Facing pressure to improve the accountability and transparency of state subsidy deals, the Wisconsin State Legislature passed meaningful subsidy disclosure legislation (Assembly Bill 741) last week.
The bill requires eight state agencies (including the Wisconsin Department of Commerce) to disclose subsidy details for economic development grants and loans over $100,000 online and allows the agencies to claw back subsidies from recipients that don’t live up to their job creation promises. Unfortunately, the new reporting requirements do not cover tax breaks or tax credits.
Last summer, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel examined 25 Wisconsin subsidy deals that were awarded $80 million in subsidies and found that, overall, companies fell about 40 percent short on their job creation promises. AB 741’s changes, however, are based on the recommendations of an August 2006 Joint Legislative Audit Committee report that was also critical of the state’s subsidy reporting practices.
Wisconsin scored an “F” in subsidy disclosure in our Fall 2007 report, The State of State Disclosure, which graded all 50 states on their online disclosure of subsidies, state procurement contracts and lobbying.
The Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) championed the bill through the legislature. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle is expected to sign the legislation.