Few people have ever heard of the Public Finance Authority (PFA) and that’s by design. Why? Because the PFA is quasi –public agency that provides high risk, tax-exempt bonding to private entities. In Wisconsin a handful of counties and one municipality give the PFA the “public” standing it needs to qualify for a federal tax exemption. In return, these government entities get a kickback from the proceeds of the bonds.
This little known agency came into the spotlight this week after the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee stuck a last minute, anonymous provision in the budget to give the PFA the power to take private property for use in developing private facilities. Why would conservative lawmakers vote to expand the power of eminent domain to a quasi-public agency with little transparency and no accountability?
When asked, PFA representatives assured lawmakers that it would never actually use the power of eminent domain, it simply needed the power in order to meet the federal tax exempt requirements. Well color us cynical but we’re not buying it.
Fortunately neither is State Representative Scott Allen. Allen smelled this rancid piece of pork before most of his colleagues and voted against the state budget because of it. Now Allen is digging in to learn everything he can about PFA and he’s calling for an audit of the agency.
The last time the legislature tried to grant more power to the PFA, Governor Walker wisely vetoed it. Now it’s up to the State Senate and Governor Walker to kill this latest piggy power grab.