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Joint Finance approves WEDC $8 million tax credit reallocation

The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee approved with an 11-4 vote WEDC's request to reallocate $8 million in tax credits, moving them from a program helping start-ups to another incentive program.

Dems, who pointed out a report last year ranked Wisconsin last in start-up activity, objected to the move, saying the state should be encouraging more early-stage investments instead of shifting money away from an underused program.

"We'd love to see the money stay in angel investment and really get the word out on that," said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton.

Republicans countered there's more demand for the business development tax credit program, which is aimed at later-stage companies looking to grow their businesses or move to Wisconsin.

Rep. John Nygren, who co-chairs the committee, knocked Rep. Chris Taylor for her concerns over the program, noting her criticisms last year the state didn't do enough to keep Oscar Mayer jobs in Madison.

The reason Oscar Mayer is leaving, he said, is because Iowa offered incentives for the company to grow and retain jobs there.

"We're talking about a program that not only works to keep jobs here but to grow jobs here, and at the same time you're saying you shouldn't be doing it," Nygren said. "You can't have it both ways."

Dems said the state is already giving too many tax breaks to such companies through manufacturing and ag tax credits. That has lowered their tax liability significantly, and the tax credit change the committee approved just gives them another check from the state, Dems said.

"We're gonna give more money into this program, to write more checks potentially to more of these corporations that have no tax liability to begin with," Taylor said.

She introduced a motion that emphasizes WEDC shouldn't be giving tax credits to companies that outsource, pointing to several examples of them doing so.

Her motion was rejected 11-4.

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