Family lured Jerrianne and her husband to South Milwaukee in 2002 from Southern California where she worked as, first, a journalist, then, as a court information officer. She now stays busy with media-relations consulting, playing with her three grandchildren (part of the lure), writing, discovering her new environs, and hoping her garden will produce before the first fall frost.
Hot on the heels of the very generous corporate-friendly lawsuit-limitations legislation that flew through Wisconsin's now-Republican-controlled Legislature last month and was even more quickly signed by the new GOP governor, the state's new Republican triumvirate has enacted another law that gives tax breaks to companies that "create" jobs in Wisconsin. This law gives companies thousands of dollars in tax deductions for each job they create.
Aside from why avowed small-government/free-market advocates would get their pro-small government involved in private-enterprise matters such as this, I wondered what kinds of safe guards this law might contain that would prevent some enterprising company or companies from engaging in a grab-the-tax-breaks-and-run scheme. So, when I learned that this bill was whip-lashing through the Legislature, I contacted our new state senator, Chris Larson, to ask that he try to protect Wisconsin taxpayers who are going to get stuck with the bill for these tax breaks by inserting some taxpayer safe guards into the bill. Some of the conditions I had hoped the law would contain are:
-- In order to receive the deduction, a company would be required to guarantee that the newly created job is permanent -- or at least that it exist for some specified time, such as two years or longer. If the job is eliminated, merged with another position or disappears by any other means before the specified time limit, the employer not only loses the deduction, but must repay the state whatever deduction it received for creating the job.
-- Only full-time jobs with benefits would qualify for a deduction. No part-time jobs would qualify.
-- The job must exist in the state of Wisconsin and employ a Wisconsin resident. No outsourced jobs or positions created by a Wisconsin employer that are based in other states (i.e. director of sales for the western United States who is based in or has an office in Phoenix or any city other than a Wisconsin city) qualify.
-- The employer must be based in -- that is, have its primary operational and administrative headquarters -- Wisconsin. No Old Dominion Energy Corporation of Virginia that opens an office in Wisconsin as part of an expansion plan, or that gets a post office box in Wisconsin as a ruse that it is based in Wisconsin.
One more provision I would love for the bill to have contained is that whenever a company eliminates a job in Wisconsin, it loses a tax credit equal to a deduction it would get for creating a job.
Sen. Larson replied to my requests, saying he tried to no avail.
The law contains no clarification or protections on the types of jobs created or length of time people must be employed for th business to collect the deduction, Sen. Larson said. Neither does the law specify any method for the state to monitor or account for job creation.
Sen. Larson said the bill's author claimed not to know when Larson asked "if it were possible for a business to hire a person one day, have them fill out their W2, fire them the next and still collect the tax deduction."
Neither did the Republican who sponsored the bill know if there are any limits to the number of times an employer could do that.
Wisconsin taxpayers are on the hook for the estimated $42 million cost of this new law.
We can pay for that out of the "return" we get from all those new jobs that law is going to create. Even if the job lasts for only one day.
"Create jobs" is certainly the catch phase du jour. Many politicians who ran for office last November expounded at length about how, if elected, they will create jobs. At the same time, these "small-government" advocates say governments shouldn't be in the business of creating jobs, or that government can't create jobs at all. I get vertigo trying to follow such double-speak.
Wisconsin's new Republican governor says the state is now open for business -- and he even spent Wisconsin taxpayer money to erect signs at Wisconsin state lines saying so. What he really means and what those signs should say is that Wisconsin is open season on the people of Wisconsin, the regular folks who don't have the mega-bucks clout that the well-heeled corporate "people" do to buy laws that result in little to no accountability, that will shift even more taxpayer dollars into corporate coffers, and leave increasingly disenfranchised individuals with fewer and fewer options for redress when harmed.
These laws -- the lawsuit-limiting law and the create-a-job-tax-break law -- are two great examples of how Alice-in-Wonderland the English language in the U.S. has become when it comes to the terms "conservative" and "liberal." "Conservative" in today's parlance is really uber-liberal, particularly in the context of laws that favor corporations over real people. You know, The People who are mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.