Assembly committee passes amended Foxconn bill

Legislation advances on party-line vote

Foxconn products on display at WCTC.

Legislation providing up to $3 billion in tax incentives for Foxconn Technology Group to build a massive plant in southeastern Wisconsin cleared its first hurdle on Monday as an Assembly committee passed an amended version, sending the bill to the full Assembly.

Foxconn plans to build a 20 million-square-foot, $10 billion complex that could eventually employ 13,000 workers. The tax credits would be tied to the capital investment and hiring done by the company.

The Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy endorsed the bill on an 8-5 party-line vote, with the Republican members in favor and the Democrats opposed.

Foxconn products on display at WCTC.

Over the course of nearly two hours the committee reviewed 23 amendments proposed by Democrats and a substitute amendment put forth by Republicans. The amendments proposed by Democrats were rejected and the Republican-proposed substitute amendment was approved, all on 8-5 party-line votes.

Those voting in favor of the Foxconn bill included: Rep. Adam Neylon, R-Pewaukee; Shannon Zimmerman, R-River Falls; Bob Kulp, R-Stratford; Paul Tittl, R-Manitowoc; John Macco, R-Ledgeview; Rep. Pat Snyder, R-Schofield; Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc; and Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan.

Those voting against the Foxconn bill included: Rep. Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha; Amanda Struck, D-Appleton; Jason Fields, D-Glendale; Rep. David Crowley, D-Milwaukee; and Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee.

The substitute amendment added language regarding preference for Wisconsin workers, $20 million for workforce training, clarified wage requirements and made a number of other changes to the legislation.

Democrats unsuccessfully sought to add a number of changes on issues related to clawback provisions for the tax credits, job requirements, environmental concerns, transportation and workforce development.

The full Assembly is expected to take the bill up on Thursday. Some critics of the Foxconn deal say Assembly Republicans have been rushing to approve it.

“Far too many questions have been raised,” said Ohnstad.

But Ohnstad, whose district is near potential sites of the Foxconn plant, didn’t close the door on voting for the bill eventually.

Democrats argued there was not enough information on the company, where the campus would be located and what kind of jobs there would be.

“This deal, we’re not there yet,” said Fields. “So far I have not seen the proof of the value, what I have heard is a bunch of hypotheticals.”

But Republicans argued the deal with Foxconn represented a great opportunity for the state and that the state had done its due diligence.

“I think we do have enough information here,” said Ballweg. “They’re not getting a check to walk in the door.”

Kleefisch said he was recently driving down Interstate 94 near Kenosha and reflected on the presence of the companies there like Amazon and Uline.

“These are companies from other states coming here,” he said. “Why? Because finally that state of Wisconsin is becoming friendly to them coming here.”

Kleefisch acknowledged Fields, who said the deal wasn’t set up for long-term success because it didn’t do enough to address workforce and transportation needs, had some “legitimate concerns.”

“It’s far better to have a worker shortage than a job shortage,” Kleefisch said, adding people would find a way to get workers to the facility as the need develops.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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