“That’s one of the reasons we were hesitant about expanding … ‘Can we fill up and man the expansion property to meet our customers’ requirements?’” Jim Hatt, Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry president, told Wisconsin Reporter in November 2011.
Times have changed.
Hatt said things have slowed up enough so the market is attracting more qualified workers — employees who can pass drug screenings, to say the least.
While business of late has been like “running in mud” as the foundry’s clients take a wait-and-see approach, Hatt said the problem finding good employees remains a problem across the state.
“I think all kinds of businesses are struggling with people passing the drug test,” he said. “It’s not something that’s really driven by the employers, it’s driven by the insurance company.”
Gov. Scott Walker appears to be taking such concerns to heart.
The Republican governor on Sunday unveiled his jobs plan for his next term, should he survive what polls show is his dead-heat gubernatorial race against Madison Metropolitan School Board member Mary Burke, a Democrat and former commerce secretary under Walker’s predecessor, Gov. Jim Doyle.
The 62-page plan proposes more property and income tax cuts, increased tax relief for manufacturing and agriculture, and reduced barriers to business creation, according to Walker’s campaign.
But the most controversial points, at least the ones that have picked up the most attention, are the governor’s proposals to require drug testing for individuals filing for unemployment and for “able-bodied, working-age adults requesting food stamps” through the state’s FoodShare public assistance program.
The bottom line, Walker says, is the bottom line: Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for public assistance programs for individuals who can’t pass a drug test.
“We want to ensure that everyone who wants a job, can find a job, and this is my comprehensive plan for the next four years that is built to provide greater prosperity for all,” Walker said in a statement.
In that pursuit, the governor said his administration will continue to “invest heavily in worker training to prepare people with the skills they need to get the job they want … (and) continue to reform government by cutting out waste, fraud, and abuse, ensuring your tax dollars are spent wisely and efficiently.”
Critics, including Burke’s campaign, quickly blasted the proposal as more politics as usual.
Such proposals have hit legal roadblocks, too.
“In recent years, many states have proposed some form of drug testing or screening for applicants,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“In 2009, over 20 states proposed legislation that would require drug testing as a condition of eligibility for public assistance programs. In 2010 at least 12 states had similar proposals. None of these proposals became law because most of the legislation was focused on ‘suspicionless’ or ‘random’ drug testing, which is at odds with a 2003 Michigan Court of Appeals case,” the NCSL report found.
The case found that subjecting every welfare recipient in Michigan to a drug test without reason to believe that drugs were being used was unconstitutional.
But the proposals have gained momentum. Between 2011 and the 2014 legislative session, 11 states passed laws requiring drug testing for public assistance, according the NCSL.
Florida’s law was deemed unconstitutional by a federal court last year. That decision is under appeal.
Walker’s jobs plan emphasizes a common theme from the governor during the past four years, transitioning people from “Government Dependence to Work.” Without going into specifics, the plan aims to:
- Put common sense limits on the amount of time able-bodied, working-aged childless adults can remain on public assistance.
- Require working-age childless adults receiving food stamps or unemployment benefits participate in employment training or part-time work.
Burke and her supporters have ripped Walker for, so far, missing the mark on his 2010 campaign pledge that Wisconsin’s economy would create 250,000 jobs during his first term. The number, to date, is north of 100,000, but it’s a long way from the massive contraction under Doyle, Walker’s allies point out.
“Wisconsin is back on under Governor Walker, and voters cannot forget the poor results and extreme mismanagement of the Doyle-Burke Administration that caused 133,000 jobs and 27,000 businesses to flee the state,” said Republican Party of Wisconsin Executive Director Joe Fadness in a statement.
Most economists say politicians have only so much to do with the performance of the economy. Hatt agreed, saying the focus on the Walker and Burke race as it relates to job creation is “overblown.”
“We make decisions,” the Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry president said of the business community. “You have money and opportunity and you take advantage of it. Can the government put money in your pocket by taking less out or giving incentives? Sure. But we’re not going to operate based on who’s in the governor’s office or in the White House.”
Read more at Watchdog.org