The state Assembly has given final approval to a $3 billion incentive package for Foxconn. The bill approved Thursday afternoon is designed to help the Taiwanese electronics maker build an LCD factory in southeastern Wisconsin, which backers say could eventually employ up 13,000 workers and spark a whole new range of support industries in the state.
Debate on the bill at the Capitol went on for nearly three hours, with several Democrats describing it as a a corporate give-away that could take decades to pay-off for the state. “We will not break even, under the best case scenario, for 25 years,” argued Rep. Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie), referencing a study that showed the state may not pay-off the tax incentives being offered until 2042.
Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire), a Democratic candidate for governor, said the bill sets up a situation where the state will be creating an entity that’s “too big to fail.”
Republicans defended the measure as a transformational opportunity for the state, while noting that the bill includes protections to ensure Foxconn must create jobs and begin building in the state in order to claim the benefits of the package. “It’s rigged in favor of the taxpayer,” said Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester). “Because we have protections built into the system to guarantee not a dollar is spent until people cash a paycheck or a shovel is in the ground.”
The bill passed on a bipartisan 64-31 vote, with four Democrats joining all but two Republicans in supporting the legislation. Rep. Jason Fields (D-Glendale), who was a no vote when the Assembly took up the bill before the Senate made changes, said he changed his mind because of the possible job opportunities the bill could offer to young African Americans in Milwaukee. “It’s about leadership, legacy, and looking myself in the mirror,” he said. “If I get up here and don’t take the opportunity to advocate and fight for African American men, then what the hell am I doing?”
The bill now goes to Governor Scott Walker, who is expected to sign it into law.