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Walker Claims He Would Back Anti-Outsourcing Rules

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 7:51am
M.L. Johnson, Associated Press

WAUWATOSA, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker said Monday he would support efforts to ensure that tax credits and other economic development incentives do not go to companies that outsource jobs.

Walker has made outsourcing an issue in the governor's race by criticizing Democratic gubernatorial challenger Mary Burke for profiting from outsourcing done by her family's company, Trek Bicycle Corp. But the Republican governor has received campaign donations from multiple companies that outsourced jobs, according to campaign finance reports.

Before a Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board meeting in Wauwatosa, Walker said he supported Rep. Peter Barca's call for measures to keep economic development incentives from going to companies that outsource jobs.

"From our standpoint, it's fine. We're going to focus on making this state a proactive state in terms of helping companies grow here, and for those that have (outsourced) in the past, to bring jobs back from other places like they announced here," Walker said.

The governor spoke to reporters at Briggs & Stratton, which recently announced that it would add more than 200 jobs at its headquarters in Wisconsin as it closed a plant in Georgia and consolidated operations. The company makes lawn tractors, snow throwers and other small machines.

"We're pleased that we've created the kind of environment where companies like Briggs & Stratton and others feel comfortable adding jobs," Walker said.

Walker declined to say whether he would support a ban on incentives to companies that outsourced years or even a decade before applying for state aid, saying he wanted to see what Barca would propose.

Barca, a Kenosha Democrat who sits on the WEDC board, said later he would propose that the agency require companies receiving incentives to inform the agency if they outsource jobs. Barca said he believed most incentives would then end, given existing WEDC rules.

Barca said WEDC also should require companies applying for incentives to vouch for the fact that they would not move forward with their project without the tax credits, grant or other aid. The companies also should have to let the state know if anything about the project changed after the incentives were awarded, he said.

Burke previously said that if elected governor, she would require companies that received state aid to return the money if they then shipped jobs overseas.

Walker responded to questions about the Chicago-based communications company RR Donnelley cutting jobs in Wisconsin after receiving $140,000 in incentives by saying that most companies already must hit benchmarks before collecting benefits.

"Our awards are based on performance, if a company says they are going to create 'X' number of jobs, they are going to retain jobs, they are going to make a capital investment, and that's the premise upon which the award is made, they get that. But they get that only if they perform. If they don't perform, they don't get it," Walker said.

He deflected questions about hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to his campaign by companies that receive WEDC awards by saying that many of those companies also received state aid under his Democratic predecessor's Department of Commerce. Walker replaced the Commerce Department with WEDC.

Walker also noted that both Republicans and Democrats serve on the WEDC board — but Barca noted that the board votes only on awards that involve enterprise zones and tax credits.

"Most of the awards never come before the board," he said.

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