Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Monday giving Wisconsin’s largest state subsidy ever to a Taiwanese electronics company that promises to bring up to 13,000 jobs to the state.
The subsidy bill obligates the state to pay $2.85 billion in cash to Foxconn, assuming the company continues to create jobs. The state will also not require Foxconn to pay $150 million in sales taxes, making the total subsidy approximately $3 billion.
In exchange, the electronics company will build a new flat screen plant in Racine County, the exact location of which has not yet been announced.
Walker’s administration will now work to negotiate a contract with Foxconn and decide on a location for the plant. The administration hopes to announce the location shortly and break ground in spring 2018, Walker said.
Walker touted the bill’s potential for innovation at Gateway Technical College in Sturtevant Monday.
"We’re thrilled about that these [flat screens] are going to be the first of its kind made in America," Walker told the crowd, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "And not only will these LCD displays be made in America, they’ll be made proudly right here in the state of Wisconsin."
The bill passed both chambers of the state Legislature with support from nearly every Republican member, as well as a few Democrats from southeastern Wisconsin. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, called the bill “one of the most important pieces of legislation in our lifetime.”
“Today Wisconsin is officially saying yes to a $10 billion development project, 13,000 careers and new opportunities throughout Wisconsin,” Vos said in a statement Monday. “The Foxconn project is a worthwhile investment that will transform our state and help build a strong, healthy economy.”
UW-Madison and UW System administrators have also voiced support for the subsidy bill. In July, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank called the deal a “major leap forward for our state’s economy.” UW System President Ray Cross said he feels “the UW System and Wisconsin are fully prepared to support a global enterprise like Foxconn.”
But the bill is not without its critics. Most Democratic members of the state Legislature have remained staunchly opposed to the subsidy throughout the months-long process, and some insiders have suggested Democrats pressured Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, to resign due to his support for the bill.
In a statement released after the bill signing Monday, Democratic leadership expressed dismay over the deal becoming a reality.
“It’s a sad day when Wisconsin’s roads, bridges and schools are forced to play second fiddle to a foreign corporation,” Assistant Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, said.
Democrats also attacked Walker for using irresponsible means to try to bolster his job creation numbers. According to the release, “PolitiFact Wisconsin confirmed that the Foxconn bill is the most costly state-funded tax credit package ever offered to a foreign corporation in U.S. history” and “under Governor Walker’s administration Wisconsin has trailed the nation in job creation for 23 consecutive quarters.”
“This Foxconn deal reveals the desperation of a Governor who has yet to fulfill his 2010 campaign promise to create 250,000 private sector jobs,” Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mark Miller, D-Monona, said. “Giving $3 billion to a foreign corporation with a terrible record of keeping its promises is a political stunt that will harm Wisconsin for a generation.”
Additionally, some have expressed concerns over the plan exempting Foxconn from certain environmental regulations. Under the bill, Foxconn would be allowed to skirt the usual requirements for environmental impact statements.
The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said it would take Wisconsin up to 25 years to recoup its investment in the plant.
According to Foxconn, the creation of the plant could create 22,000 jobs in the surrounding community in addition to the 13,000 directly from the deal.