Subsidies

Wisconsin Loans Money to Financially Troubled Companies

Brilliant use of resources

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To see the recent struggles of the state's jobs programs, take the case of a missing crane, a seemingly untraceable business owner and $83,000 in squandered taxpayer money.

When the state lent the money to Milwaukee Iron Works in the fall of 2010, seemingly everything soured — from the state's spotty follow-up on the delinquent loan and the firm's eventual status as a tax scofflaw to a shortchanged pension fund for the company's workers and even a sloppy job of lawmaking by legislators eliminating the state program. Taxpayers were left with bad debt and no collateral: The crane that was supposed to back up their loan can't be found.

The case turned up in an ongoing Journal Sentinel review of the state's job programs that encompassed hundreds of records on delinquent loans and matched a database of tax-delinquent companies against firms that have received state jobs incentives such as grants, loans or other awards.