Douglas, Clavelle differ in approaches to outsourcing

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(Host) Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Clavelle is calling for a ban on all contracts that would outsource any state jobs overseas. Governor Jim Douglas says he won’t support that blanket approach.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The issue of outsourcing state jobs to a foreign country came to light when it was disclosed that part of the information services system of Vermont’s food stamp program was being performed by workers in India. Citibank has a contract with all the New England states and New York to perform these services. One of Citibank’s subcontractors uses a company in India to handle authorization and verification issues with the food stamp program.

Many companies are outsourcing information technology jobs as a way to save money because foreign workers are paid a lot less money than their American counterparts.

Clavelle says he plans to highlight economic development issues during his campaign for governor and he says he would craft a state policy that bans outsourcing of state positions on his first day in office. Clavelle says he’d support using a Vermont contractor for many jobs even if it means paying more money for the work to be done:

(Clavelle) “And we ought to be looking at the double bottom line. And the bottom line is not simply the cost of that contract, but needs to include the cost of public subsidies for those who don’t have a decent paying job, as well as taxes that will be paid and will stay in the state as a result of creating jobs and activities that will fuel the state’s economic engine – rather than someone’s economic engine.”

(Kinzel) Governor Douglas says he’d like to have a system where potential contractors would offer two bids for future state work – one that contains outsourcing and another that uses Vermont workers. Then the state could determine if the benefits of lower contract costs outweigh the loss of jobs:

(Douglas) “I don’t think we can have an absolute ban on outsourcing, but this is a matter that’s not easy to resolve. We’ve got to talk about the pros and cons – the advantages of free trade. So we have to contemplate all of the issues involved in the international and expanding markets around the world and then decide in a thoughtful way – not just based on political rhetoric – what our policy should be.”

(Kinzel) The Douglas administration is conducting an audit of all state contracts to determine if any of them contain provisions that call for state services to be done by foreign workers.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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