Scott Walker generic
Wisconsin Gov.-elect Scott Walker.

Nearly 400 state workers will have to re-apply for their jobs under Gov.-elect Scott Walker's plan to abolish the state Department of Commerce and replace it with a quasi-private economic development authority, Walker said Tuesday.

Walker said there would be a process for state employees to re-apply for a position with the new Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, or WEDC.

The plan calls for the Department of Commerce to be dissolved and the new Economic Development Corporation in place by July 1, 2011.

The state Department of Commerce had 365 employees in May, according to the Wisconsin Department of Administration.

"Obviously, if there are good people there, we will take them along," Walker said while addressing reporters at his transition office Tuesday morning.

The news that state workers would need to re-apply for their jobs came as Walker announced the details of the third piece of legislation that will be introduced when he calls the Legislature into special session designed to jump-start the economy after he is sworn in as governor Monday.

Sounding more like a corporation than a government agency, the new Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. will be led by a governor-appointed chief executive officer and a governor-appointed 12-member board of directors.

The governor will serve as the chairman. The plan is for the secretary of commerce, who has still to be named, to serve as the chief executive officer of the economic development authority.

The governor's pick for commerce secretary and board appointees will need to be approved by the Senate.

The cost associated with Walker's plan is still not known, but he said the amount would be outlined and paid for in the next budget.

As far as funding is concerned, though, Walker said WEDC will be able to accept money from private funding as well as state venture capitol.

"For too long, the Department of Commerce has spent more time regulating business than promoting it," Walker said in a prepared statement. "Throughout the campaign, I promised to fundamentally change our government's approach to job creation."

Unlike the state Department of Commerce, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. will focus solely on job creation, not on regulating business.

Walker said regulatory aspects currently under the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce will be shuffled to other agencies or will be eliminated. He emphasized no new regulatory authority would be given to the state Department of Natural Resources.

"This will allow them to be more nimble and act more quickly," Walker said. "It will help move us forward."

Although a hybrid entity, WEDC will be subject to the state's open records laws, just like other state agencies, Walker said.

 

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