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Group: Wisconsin taxpayers learning less about money going to job creation

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MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - An advocacy group says Wisconsin taxpayers are learning less about the money they’re giving to businesses to help them grow and create jobs.

The Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group said it checked information about 251 companies that got state tax breaks and other subsidies in 2009 and 2010. But full data was available for only two companies on the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s Web site.

The state often requires companies that get tax breaks to provide certain numbers of jobs. And a state law passed in 2007 requires the data to be online so taxpayers can see if their money’s being well spent.

Tom Thieding of the Economic Development Corporation said an annual update on the data will come out soon. He said there’s a lag in reporting some of the numbers – which come from a half-dozen agencies.

Thieding says some awards are not financial in nature, such as Brownfield grants that cover environmental cleanups of polluted business sites. He said it all comes down to the requirements of each program – and they all have to be considered separately.

But Bruce Speight of the Public Interest Research Group says taxpayers should not have to be auditors, and dig through tons of data to see if their business grants are getting, “bang for the buck.”

Speight also said the public-private nature of the new economic development agency makes public information less forthcoming. But Thieding said his agency is putting out the same data as the former, totally tax-funded Department of Commerce. 

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