Wednesday, April 09, 2008

House Republicans Vote Against Hiring Michigan Workers First

"Hire Michigan First" was introduced last year to give companies receiving tax breaks and other economic goodies an incentive to hire Michigan workers first - if they can prove 100 percent compliance, they will be given priority on development tools offered by the state. This was written as a way to provide those jobs for Michigan citizens - and crack down on companies that use illegal immigrant labor. Rep. Fred Miller-

"When companies take advantage of tax breaks or state economic development programs, Michigan workers deserve the first crack at those jobs," Miller said. "Michigan tax dollars should not fund grants or tax incentives for businesses that hire people from other states and countries when Michigan residents have the training and expertise and need those jobs. Michigan families have been hit hard by outsourcing and downsizing, and every scarce state dollar should be used to create jobs here in Michigan."

This package of 12 bills cleared the House Labor and Commerce Committees yesterday but Republicans chose not to get on board - even after language was inserted that you could drive a tank through. From Gongwer-

Republicans, who dissented or abstained from voting on the package, continued to argue it would place more of a burden on businesses at a time when Michigan needs jobs and needs less hoops for businesses to jump through.

Nearly all of the bills were amended to include exemptions to the 'Hire Michigan first' premise in cases where hiring other workers is required by federal law or "to the extent that key management personnel or individuals with special skills, who are not residents of this state, are needed."

Fair enough - the film incentives are a good example of this. We might not have the people (yet) who can fill those job requirements; film company gets a break on compliance when they have to bring in trained workers.

Other businesses can take advantage of that provision as well - and remember, these are companies that are asking for money and contracts from the state. Republicans think they shouldn't have to be bothered with proving that they can bring some return for our investment...

House Minority Floor Leader Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell) argued that while everyone can support the concept of hiring Michigan workers, the state needs to have a better climate for companies to do business.

"This is an assault on free enterprise," said Rep. John Stakoe (R-Highland), adding that the legislation also makes it look like businesses don't have the credibility to hire the right people for the job.

... and the Chamber of Commerce wants to make sure that companies have an "out" if they hire illegals. Illegal immigrants are this year's big buzzword for Republicans, to be added to every bill that comes down the pike - but the people who hire them shouldn't be held accountable, of course. Would love to see a lawyer try to prove the word "knowingly" in court.

The legislation was also amended by the committees to require that a business entering into incentive deals with the state or local unit of government would have to agree to a contract that states it will not "knowingly" hire illegal immigrants.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce supported adding the "knowingly" wording into the bill, said Wendy Block, director of health policy and human resources, but the chamber would still be opposed to the legislation until there are further amendments dealing with the citizenship verification portion.

So, we have all kinds of wiggle room here already, but yet Republicans still won't sign on to hiring Michigan workers first. More amendments will be added - they also want to make sure wages for workers are suppressed as well.

Republicans also are readying some amendments on the floor dealing with prevailing wage provisions in the bills.

There are other technical details that need to be worked out, such as workers who live in border communities and federal laws pertaining to the paperwork on citizenship requirements, but you get the impression that if the Republicans had their way, business will be able to hire cheap, out-of-state, and maybe even illegal labor, and still receive tax breaks.

Republicans put Michigan workers last, once again.