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Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for accountability in economic development, generally recommends against taxpayer subsidies for retail companies such as Kohl’s Corp.

The group’s research director, Philip Mattera, said retail positions tend to be low-paid, part-time jobs.

“Retail jobs are substandard jobs,” Mattera said. “They really don’t deserve public subsidies. Ideally, they (subsidized jobs) are significantly above average.”

Glassdoor, which compares jobs and benefits of employees who report them to its website, lists the average wage of a Kohl’s cashier in the Milwaukee area at $9 an hour, or $17,102 a year. That wage could qualify a full-time employee for food stamps or subsidized child care.

Some Kohl’s employees also qualify for BadgerCare Plus, the state’s Medicaid-funded health insurance program for low-income residents. The state Department of Health Services said as of June 30, there were 1,232 Kohl’s employees and their children receiving BadgerCare Plus. It ranked No. 14 among Wisconsin employers with 558 employees whose families receive subsidized state-run health care.

Under terms of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s contract with Kohl’s, qualifying jobs must be located at the company’s corporate offices in Menomonee Falls — not its retail stores — and new employees must earn $30,000 or more plus earn benefits for the company to qualify for tax credits.

Nevertheless, Mattera’s group believes government should not subsidize companies paying their employees so little that they qualify for public benefits.

“Taxpayers are essentially subsidizing the companies two times,” Mattera said. “There is already a proliferation of poverty-level jobs at companies that could well afford to pay their employees better and provide better benefits.”

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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Dee J. Hall, a co-founder of Wisconsin Watch, joined the staff as managing editor in June 2015. She is responsible for daily news operations. She worked at the Wisconsin State Journal for 24 years as an editor and reporter focusing on projects and investigations.

A 1982 graduate of Indiana University’s journalism school, Hall served reporting internships at the weekly Lake County Star in Crown Point, Ind., The Gary (Ind.) Post-Tribune, The Louisville (Ky.) Times and The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. Prior to returning to her hometown of Madison in 1990, she was a reporter for eight years at The Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix, where she covered city government, schools and the environment. During her 35-year journalism career, Hall has won more than three dozen local, state and national awards for her work, including the 2001 State Journal investigation that uncovered a $4 million-a-year secret campaign machine operated by Wisconsin’s top legislative leaders.