Assembly debate on Foxconn bill underway

Lawmakers pass resolution condemning Charlottesville violence

Foxconn products on display at WCTC.

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:12 pm

The state Assembly on Thursday began debate on legislation setting up $3 billion in incentives for Foxconn Technology Group to build a $10 billion LCD panel manufacturing operation in southeastern Wisconsin.

Foxconn products on display at WCTC.

Lawmakers are expected to continue discussion on the bill until around 7 p.m., according to WisPolitics, a BizTimes media partner.

The bill allows the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to set up a contract with Foxconn to award the company $1.5 billion in tax credits for job creation, $1.35 billion for capital investment and $150 million in a sales tax holiday.

The credits would only be awarded for jobs created and investments made, but a Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis found it could take 25 years for the state to recoup the tax credits.

Republicans and business leaders have said the analysis does not account for broader benefits to the state.

Democrats have raised concerns about the legislation, including environmental protections, preference for Wisconsin workers and the speed at which the bill has been considered.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said he was “optimistic” the bill would receive bipartisan support.

“Everything that people run for when they go and campaign is in the bill today,” he said. “If you’re open-minded, Democrats will find a way to get to yes.”

The prospects for a bipartisan vote seemed unlikely during early debate. Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said he was encouraged by initial goals for both parties to work together.

“We never actually came back together,” he said. “The real issue is why can we not work together to put together the strongest possible deal for taxpayers.”

Barca sought to have the bill sent to the Joint Finance Committee. The state Senate has already sent the bill to JFC, as the two chambers have taken different approaches to the legislation.

Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) said he hopes the project works out, but also cautioned against the potential for consumer tastes to change. He suggested if it were 2005 instead of 2017 and the product were Blackberrys instead of LCDs, the deal wouldn’t look quite the same.

But Rep. Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan) said the bill will already be considered by Joint Finance, and the Assembly benefitted by having its own committee evaluate it.

The Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy held its own public hearing and passed an amended version of the bill that addressed some issues raised by Democrats and others.

“I think the Assembly is well ready and has had more than enough time to thoroughly vet this proposal,” Ballweg said.

The two sides did find bipartisan consensus before beginning debate on the bill, unanimously passing a resolution condemning this weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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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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