In Scott Walker's state, Democrats seek outsourcing penalties

Wisconsin lawmakers make an attempt to discourage offshoring

Gov. Scott Walker
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, on July 18. Credit: REUTERS/Jim Young

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, one of the polling leaders in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, is still a cipher on offshore outsourcing and the H-1B issue. But Wisconsin lawmakers have introduced anti-outsourcing legislation that could shed light on Walker's views, if the bill makes it to his desk.

The legislation cuts state benefits to any company that sends jobs out of state or offshore. The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), the assistant minority leader, and one of 23 state senators and representatives, all Democrats, who have signed on to the bill.

Specifically, Senate bill 211, says that a business with state operations that "outsources work from this state to another state or country" is ineligible to receive any grants or loans from a state agency, as well as a tax exemption. The bill would also bar any benefits "for a period of 5 years."

The impetus for this legislation follows Eaton Corp.'s decision to lay off workers at a state plant and move the jobs to Mexico, according to a spokesman for Hansen.

There were 93 jobs affected and Eaton, reported ABC affiliate WKOW in Madison, had collected nearly $370,000 in job creation tax credits from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Eaton is a maker of electrical systems, among other products.

Walker has used the offshore outsourcing of jobs as a political weapon. In the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, a video ad posted to YouTube by Walker supporters accused his Democratic opponent, Mary Burke, a former executive at bicycle maker Trek and the daughter of its founder, of profiting by offshoring some work to China. The company said the ad was an unfair characterization.

In terms of immigration, in an interview on conservative radio host Glenn Beck's show, Walker spoke of the need to have a legal immigration system "that's based on, first and foremost, protecting American workers and American wages."

Walker's comment about protecting jobs doesn't mean he is opposed to raising the H-1B cap, but he may be more sympathetic about restraining the temporary visa program than fellow presidential contender U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has advocated for a 500% increase in the cap.

There is a long history of anti-offshoring bills in state houses and while many are introduced, few are adopted. For instance, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is also seeking the Republican nomination, had an opportunity to approve legislation that would have penalized firms that moved call centers overseas, but rejected it without comment.

This story, "In Scott Walker's state, Democrats seek outsourcing penalties " was originally published by Computerworld.