After more than six hours of debate, the state Assembly on Thursday approved a $3 billion incentive package aimed at getting Foxconn to build an LCD factory in southeastern Wisconsin.
The bill was the focus of an intense debate at the Capitol, which saw Democrats criticize the legislation as “corporate welfare” that may not deliver on the 13,000 jobs the company says it hopes to create. “This bill could leave Wisconsin taxpayers sucking on a $3 billion lemon,” argued Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire), referencing an earlier comment from Governor Scott Walker in which said opponents of the bill “can go suck lemons.”
Republicans defended the plan though, noting that safeguards are included that tie the tax credits to job creation.
GOP leaders have described the bill as “transformational” to the state’s economy. Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) called it a “game-changer” to be looking at the possibility of bringing an entire industry to the western hemisphere for the first time, while Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) noted that the offer is necessary to compete in a global economy.
“In a perfect world, I would say…we should not have subsidies for any businesses…but that’s not where we are,” Kitchens said. “Other states are offering it – if we don’t do this we won’t get this kind of jobs and we will not transform our economy.”
The legislation passed on a bipartisan 59-30 vote. Three Democrats joined Republicans in supporting the bill – Representatives Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), Tod Ohnstad (D-Kenosha), and Cory Mason (D-Racine). All three represent areas where Foxconn is looking to build its factory. Two Republicans voted against it – Representative Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) and Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville).
Ahead of the vote, Mason – who is running for mayor of Racine – said that he had reservations about voting for the bill, but ultimately decided to support it. “This is not an easy vote for me, there are things about this bill that I don’t like…but for me – for the good jobs that this represents in Racine, for the middle class in Racine, for the future of Racine – the vote is green.”
The legislation now heads to the Senate, which plans to send it to the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee as early as next week. The committee could make additional changes to the bill, which would require it to come back to the Assembly later for a second vote.