Taiwan based Foxconn announced its intentions to invest $10 billion dollars to build a manufacturing facility in southeast Wisconsin. In return, the company said it needed a package of incentives, including cash payments, tax credits and relief from some regulatory requirements with a total value of $3 billion.
Late Monday afternoon the the Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy gave its okay on a party line vote. Democrats introduced 23 of their own amendments to the bill that would have required Foxconn to meet specific goals to secure and keep those tax credits. Republicans believe those are all issues the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) can negotiate in a contract with the company.
"I believe this is a great bill and I don't believe that any of the amendments that have put forth moving forward should be considered friendly," said Rep. Adam Neylon of Pewaukee.
"Not having a contract negotiated yet, all I can say is that perhaps a little bit skeptical and we want to make sure that the I's are dotted and the T's crossed before we enter into such an agreement," said Rep. Tod Ohnstad of Kenosha.
Republicans defeated all 23 democratic amendments - and every democrat on the committee voted against the final version of the bill. A vote in the full state assembly is expected on Thursday.
As the Foxconn deal works its way there, constituents in the Coulee Region had the chance to voice their opinions in Onalaska at a listening session hosted by State Senator Jennifer Shilling and Representative Jill Billings.
"This 3 billion dollar investment on behalf of Wisconsin taxpayers is historic," said Rep Billings. "I think it's important that legislators listen to what the constituents - the people they represent - have to say about this bill because it's their money that we're investing."
The deal projects that Foxconn could create up to 13,000 jobs with average pay over 50,000 per year. in a statement, WEDC Secretary Mark Hogan said, "There's an incredible commitment on the part of the company, and the opportunity for the State of Wisconsin is limitless."
Those in the listening session disagreed, citing the high cost of investment and environmental concerns. Foxconn and other future businesses in the planned "Wisconn Valley" area would be exempted from certain environmental regulations dealing with wetlands Lake Michigan, according to Rep. Billings and Senator Shilling.
According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, it would take 25 years for Wisconsin taxpayers to recoup the value of the incentives needed to bring Foxconn to the state.
Governor Walker promised the deal includes a pay-as-they-grow plan, only giving these incentives as Foxconn delivers, but some have raised concerns over WEDC's ability to hold Foxconn accountable should it fail on those promises.
"WEDC's track record has not been stellar," Rep. Billings said. "Democrats in the assembly asked lots of questions during the public hearing about claw-back and making sure that if this goes south, that the taxpayers aren't left holding the bag."
Currently the incentives package has enough support in the assembly to pass, and should the senate follow suit, Wisconsin could seal this deal by the end of the month.