The state Senate has approved a $3 billion incentive package designed to pave the way for Taiwanese electronic components maker Foxconn to build a plant in Wisconsin. Tuesday’s Senate vote on the measure was 20-13, with Green Bay Republican Rob Cowles a no, and Kenosha Democrat Bob Wirch a yes.
Majority Leader, Senator Scott Fitzgerald, said he was glad lawmakers “pumped the brakes” on the process. “There was a lot of pressure early on . . . but I think we’ve improved this bill significantly, with the changes we have made.”
A Republican amendment tightens job creation requirements for Foxconn to collect tax credits — Democrat Jon Erpenbach said that’s not enough. “All this legislation essentially says is three billion dollars going to a foreign owned corporation that is promising a certain number of jobs, maybe,” Erpenbach said. He noted that it will be up to the Wisconsin Economic Development Authority to negotiate terms of an actual contract with the Taiwanese firm.
“I think the last thing we should be doing, given their track record, is to be giving WEDC $3 billion and saying ‘have at it.'” Erpenbach also termed environmental protection provisions in the bill “a piece of crap.”
Republican proponents of the deal, most notably Governor Scott Walker, have touted Foxconn’s potential to create up to 13,000 jobs, with salaries starting at about $54,000.
“There are no specific numbers of jobs, anywhere in any of the pieces of paper that are about to become law,” said Alma Democrat Kathleen Vinehout. “And the threshold for the amount that a person gets paid is $30,000 . . . not $54,000.”
“It’s a good investment,” argued River Hills Republican Alberta Darling. “It has the transparencies and accountabilities it needs.”
Another GOP amendment altered a controversial provision inserted by the Republican controlled Joint Finance Committee just last week. It would maintain the appeals court role in any lawsuits filed over decisions related to the economic development zone where the project is located.
The JFC provision would have kicked all such appeals directly to the state Supreme Court. Cowles joined Democrats in voting against the amendment, which still streamlines the appeals process.
“There’s nothing sinister,” said Racine Republican Van Wanggaard. “The idea here is to get this project moving forward. We have people here who don’t want this project slowed down, because they want the jobs.”
The Assembly approved an earlier version of the bill, and members will have to take up the latest changes. That’s expected to happen on Thursday.