Legislation championed by WEDA to ensure the state’s Transportation Economic Assistance (TEA) Grant program continues to provide grant funding for projects that retain jobs in Wisconsin was recently considered by the state Assembly and Senate Transportation Committees.
The Senate committee heard the bill (SB 319) last week, and yesterday the Assembly Transportation Committee held a public hearing on the Assembly version of the bill (AB 343).
The WEDA Government Affairs Team would like to thank the following members who took time out of their busy schedules to testify in favor of the bill on behalf of WEDA before the Assembly Committee:
- Cheryl Fahrner, Columbia County Economic Development Corporation
- Seth Hudson, Cedar Corp.
- Steve Peterson, Monroe County Economic Development
The TEA Grant program, administered by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT), was created in 1987 to provide funding for transportation improvements critical to economic development projects that retain and create jobs in Wisconsin. Since its inception, the program has awarded over 350 grants statewide totaling more than $110 million. In addition, TEA Grants have helped fund road, rail, harbor and airport projects that have resulted in the creation of over 27,000 new jobs and the retention of more than 19,000 jobs.
The program has an annual appropriation of approximately $3.4 million and offers grants that provide $5,000 per job created or retained, up to 50% of the total cost of the transportation improvement project. Individual grants are capped at $1 million and require a 50% local match from a non-state source, such as a community or business.
After a recent legal review of the program, the DOT determined it did not possess the statutory authority to provide grant funding for jobs retained – and going forward could only support projects that create new jobs. Unfortunately, this change not only diminished the value of TEA Grants as an economic development tool, it disregards the importance of job retention in maintaining vibrant communities.
The legislation WEDA is pursuing would simply restore the TEA Grant program’s long history of awarding project funds for both job creation and job retention.
The bipartisan proposal, which is supported by the Department of Transportation, was received favorably by legislators on both the Senate and Assembly committees during the public hearings. The committees are expected to vote on the bill over the next several weeks. It will then be further considered by the full Legislature.