State owes HUD another $2.9 million for grants issued by Burke's - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

State owes HUD another $2.9 million for grants issued by Burke's Commerce Department

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Madison, WI (WKOW) - - MADISON (WKOW) -- New documents, originally obtained and reported on by the website WisPolitics, show the federal government is forcing Wisconsin to pay back another $2.9 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds issued by the Department of Commerce during the time gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke (D-Madison) led that agency.

The news comes after the state announced in July that the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was seeking repayment for $12.3 million in CDBG funds that were given to Kenosha County, so it could purchase property in an attempt to entice Abbott Labs to relocate its headquarters there from Illinois. 

HUD asked for that money back because no jobs were ever created with those funds.

The bulk of the additional $2.9 million went towards a Wisconsin Entrepreneur's Network program for Juneau County, which ultimately led to the creation of 3,753 jobs.  1,200 of the jobs went to low or moderate income (LMI) individuals, but HUD officials told the Wisconsin Dept. of Administration (DOA) in 2013 that the number falls short of the requirement for LMI employment under the CDBG program.

The total amount the state now owes the federal government as a result of these missteps is $15.2 million, but HUD agreed to reduce future grants to Wisconsin by $7.6 million.  The state will write a check to HUD for the remainder.  That amount will be allotted in the 2015-2016 state budget.

Gov. Walker's campaign slammed Burke over the revelation. 

"These bad deals are just two more in a series of costly failures that marked Mary Burke's time as Jim Doyle's commerce secretary and show a pattern of millionaire Mary Burke playing it fast and loose with taxpayer money.  Seven years later, Wisconsin taxpayers are still on the hook for millions of dollars a result of Burke's bad and careless decisions," said Alleigh Marre, spokesperson for Friends of Scott Walker.

Burke campaign spokesperson Joe Zepecki responded to the story Tuesday afternoon.

"The establishment of the Juneau County center alone led to the creation of at least 3,700 jobs according to Scott Walker's own administration. Mary makes no apologies for aggressively using scarce taxpayer resources responsibly to make investments that create jobs," said Zepecki. "The fact is that each of these awards created jobs in Wisconsin and when Mary was Secretary of Commerce there were 57,000 more jobs that we have today. She's proud of her record at Commerce and looks forward to putting her private sector experience to work creating jobs and growing our economy as Governor."

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