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Wisconsin must refund $12-M in Kenosha economic development funds

KENOSHA, Wis (WSAU-Wheeler News)  The state is under federal orders to pay back a $12.3-million dollar grant it received in 2006 to help drug-maker Abbott Laboratories build a plant in Kenosha County that never materialized.

Governor Scott Walker's campaign unveiled a T-V ad yesterday that slammed his Democratic election opponent Mary Burke for wasting a grant she arranged while she was the state's commerce secretary. The ad mentioned nothing about the U-S Department of Housing and Urban Development's ruling that the grant was for a speculative project and therefore improper. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the state was told a year ago to pay back around $6-million in cash, and give up another $6-million in future block grant funds.

Both state officials and the Burke camp disagree with the finding. The paper said the funding bought land that prevented a truck stop from going on the Abbott sites. A Walker housing official said it eventually helped Uline (you-line) build its new corporate headquarters in Pleasant Prairie. Burke's camp said she disagrees strongly with HUD's finding, and she would officially challenge it if she's elected governor in November. Her camp said Abbott -- the Illinois drug giant -- made a major land investment in 2006, and it included taxpayer protections. The village of Pleasant Prairie was given the grant funds, which eventually went to Abbott. The company has not commented.