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WisBusiness: Wolter, recovery office watching over $3.5 billion in fed stimulus

Those running the state's new Office of Recovery and Reinvestment are pledging to watch "every nickel" of the more than $3.5 billion of federal stimulus money set to flow to Wisconsin.

But where exactly the money will go at this point is uncertain, says Madison Gas & Electric chief Gary Wolter, who's taking a leave to run the new office for Gov. Jim Doyle.

Wolter said the office's main function at this point is to connect interested municipalities and officials to the appropriate state agency, reiterating that the office isn't determining where the money ultimately goes.

“It is a very fluid operation at this point,” Wolter told a legislative committee on March 17.

On March 12, Wolter told a WisPolitics.com luncheon in Madison that some of those needing the money may end up disappointed.

“The needs far outweigh the money,” he said. “There's a big problem with the expectations.”

Green energy applications are swamping the office, for example, and while worthy, many won't be funded.

UW-Madison vice chancellor Alan Fish, vice chair of the state recovery office, said the guidelines for spending the funds will be delivered from Washington this spring, followed by a steady increase in funding though the end of 2009, before tailing off by early 2011. He added that the office is working with the Office of Management and Budget and the Government Accountability Office to determine the effectiveness of the funds.

“We see this as an opportunity to talk about the results of public sector projects,” Fish said, noting that the vast majority of jobs would be created in the private sector. “This isn’t a government-sponsored set of programs.”

The 2009 luncheon series is sponsored by The Wisconsin Bankers Association, The Ho Chunk Nation, WHD Government Affairs, Flaherty & Associates, Wal-Mart and Xcel Energy.

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