The Cost and Camouflage of Grants

There’s an item in the Whitewater city manager’s July 15th Weekly Report that shows how deceptive grants — supposedly free money — can be.

First, the cost. Grants for bridges, etc., aren’t free — someone had to earn that grant money, money that found its way to one public or quasi-public organization or another. When Whitewater gets several hundred thousand from an organization like the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, it’s not getting something that doesn’t come at a cost to Whitewater and Wisconsin.

(WEDC is Gov. Walker’s replacement for the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, and he chairs its board of directors. They don’t have a printing press; they do have funding from taxes. How much? Millions upon millions in taxes.)

Second, the camouflage. Even after the taxpayer-funded grant money, there’s still often shortfall (as in this case, as in the case with the Innovation Center) that the city pays through municipal indebtedness. With a bridge on North Street, that’s still hundreds of thousand in debt, after hundreds of thousands in tax revenue. We need a new bridge; we should be plain that we’re the ones paying for it.

I sometimes wonder if Whitewater’s city manager has seen one to many Matthew Lesko infomercials —

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