July 30, 2014

Senators differ on efforts to combat outsourcing

With job outsourcing a hot political topic right now, there is support from some members of both parties to give businesses incentives and tax breaks for bringing jobs home instead of sending them overseas. But Wisconsin’s U.S. Senators are on opposite sides of the debate over legislation aimed at accomplishing that.

Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin is hoping the Bring Jobs Home Act can get enough support to remove the tax code that rewards businesses for exporting jobs. “This measure repeals that perverse tax incentive, and in its place says let’s actually send the right message. Let’s say if you bring jobs back that there’s a tax credit,” said Baldwin.

Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson was one of seven Senators who recently voted against bringing the bill to the floor for a vote, arguing it’s the wrong approach. “It would actually make America a less attractive place (for business),” Johnson said. “The reason people are doing these corporate inversions is that we have the highest business tax rate in the developed world.”

Baldwin said over the last decade, 2.4 million jobs were shipped overseas because of a loophole that allows businesses to deduct the cost of moving personnel and components to other countries when filing taxes. “This is in something that has been sort of out of whack in our tax code for many years, it’s high time we fix it.”

“There are no special loopholes for corporations that move from location to location,” said Johnson, who has argued that the tax code is in need of drastic revision. “What we should do is scrap the current tax code, and then write something that is pretty simple, that raises the revenue we need, and does no economic harm,” Johnson said.

WSAU contributed to this report


Netting at Capitol, 3 years ago

Netting installed at the Capitol building (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Netting installed at the Capitol building (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Three years ago today state workers put what was ultimately short-lived netting across the state Capitol rotunda. 

The decision to drape the netting just below the dome in Wisconsin’s statehouse came shortly after an altercation over a red heart-shaped balloon. The contraption was installed overnight just above the fourth floor of the historic building — at the trumpeter balcony level. A state worker had been arrested for popping a protester’s balloon earlier that week. Scores of other protesters then brought helium-filled mylar balloons to the Capitol and released them into the dome, leaving state workers with the task of retrieving them.

Netting covers artwork inside Capitol dome. (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Netting covers artwork inside Capitol dome. (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

The net was installed to catch those balloons before they reached the top and rubbed against the mural — potentially causing damage to the old artwork. The large net was removed a couple days after it was installed. Some people complained their view of the dome was obscured, others said it looked tacky.

Meanwhile, the protester who was shoved by the state worker in 2011 during the daily protest sign-alongs — after she allegedly taunted him — was eventually paid $19,000 to settle her civil lawsuit with the state. The public employee no longer works in the Capitol building.

Primary election 2 weeks out, absentee voting under way

Kevin Kennedy (FILE PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Kevin Kennedy (FILE PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Wisconsin’s primary election is scheduled for August 12th, but absentee voting has already begun. “People can go to their municipal clerk’s office and cast an absentee ballot,” says Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the Government Accountability Board. “The hours do vary by municipality, but they can only vary within a window from 8 in the morning til 7 at night. There is no in-person absentee voting allowed on the weekend at all anymore.”

The purpose of the primary is to winnow down the selection of candidates and pick someone who’ll move on to the general election in November. “The partisan primary contains a lot of names because what this is, is sort of a winnowing process where you determine … the voters get to pick who is going to be the nominee of a particular party.”

Primary elections are partisan. That means voters can only pick candidates from one political party — Democratic, Republican, Constitution, or an independent. Cross-voting will result in an invalid ballot. Voters can split their ticket in the general election in November, if they choose.

Kennedy says the biggest question his office gets from voters is, “Why can’t I vote in both primaries?” 

Voters will find on the ballot candidates for governor, lt. governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, congressional seats, and state representatives. Find answers to your questions at the GAB’s Voter Information Center.

Walker backs plan to keep aid from companies that outsource jobs

WRN file photo

WRN file photo

A proposal to keep state tax dollars from going to companies that outsource jobs picks up bipartisan support.

The plan, offered by Democratic state Representative Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) at Monday’s board meeting of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, would require businesses that receive state aid to sign a document indicating the assistance was necessary to keep the business open. It would also require those businesses to notify the state if they plan to outsource jobs or reduce their Wisconsin workforce. Companies that outsource jobs would then lose that economic assistance from WEDC.

The proposal comes in response to reports that multiple companies in the state received state tax credits through WEDC, and then sent jobs out of the country. Barca says the proposal would “help WEDC ensure that taxpayer assistance is never being used to support outsourcing.”

Governor Walker came out in support of the plan on Monday, saying “I don’t think any of us want taxpayers’ money going in any way to a company or organization that’s going to send jobs outside of the state.”

Walker asked WEDC staff to put the proposal on the board’s agenda for its September meeting.

There’s been a heavy focus on the issue of outsourcing in the campaign for governor, with Walker attacking likely Democratic opponent Mary Burke over jobs Trek Bicycle, her family-owned company, moved to China. Burke and Trek have argued she had no role in that decision, noting that Trek still employs a thousand people in the state.

‘Do not call’ list gets more consumer friendly

WIDNC_Vert_4cYou may not notice the difference immediately, but big changes are just around the bend for Wisconsin’s Do Not Call list. Beginning August 1, consumers will no longer be required to register their phone numbers every two years to receive protection from unwanted telemarketing calls and text messages, and new registrations will be active the following day rather than the next quarter.

“Consumers can sign up once and not have to worry about whether their registrations will lapse or whether there will be a three-month delay before they are protected under the program,” said Sandy Chalmers, Division Administrator for Trade and Consumer Protection.

Changes in the state’s Do Not Call law will make numbers on the Wisconsin Do Not Call Registry permanent, moving the registration process to the Federal Trade Commission’s nationwide list. Phone numbers on the previous Wisconsin list will automatically be transferred to the federal list. If a Wisconsin consumer has previously registered their number to the federal list, they do not need to re-register for protection under the new law.

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) will continue to enforce the state’s Do Not Call laws, protecting Wisconsin residents registered on the federal list.