Joint Finance begins hearing on Foxconn bill

Darling hoping for Senate vote week of Sept. 14

Members of the Joint Finance Committee.

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

It could be another three weeks before the state Senate votes on legislation clearing the way for a $3 billon incentive package for Foxconn Technology Group as lawmakers try to balance work on the bill with the state budget that is yet to be completed.

Members of the Joint Finance Committee.

Joint Finance Committee co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) told reporters Tuesday she’s hoping a Foxconn vote will take place the week of Sept. 14.

Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Secretary Mark Hogan said his goal is for the WEDC board to be able to take up a contract with the company at its Sept. 8 meeting.

Members of the Joint Finance Committee traveled to Sturtevant on Tuesday for a public hearing on the Foxconn bill. Darling and fellow co-chair, Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) said the Foxconn deal was a significant opportunity for the state and it is important for lawmakers to weigh the investment.

“This is one of the biggest decisions we’ll ever have to make,” Darling said. “There’s a lot of downside to saying no; there’s a lot of upside to saying yes.”

Darling said Foxconn officials would not be testifying at the public hearing, with Nygren adding lawmakers are not negotiating the deal, but rather reviewing what Gov. Scott Walker’s administration had agreed to.

“This isn’t a sales job for Foxconn,” Darling said.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) said he was “disappointed” no one from Foxconn would be at the hearing. He said everyone wants jobs to come to the state, but there are questions about the deal and hoped the process would slow down to allow for more consideration.

“I think there’s real questions over whether they’re going to be able to follow through on this investment,” said Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh).

The Assembly passed the legislation last week, with Republicans voting down a number of a amendments put forth by Democrats.

Gateway Technical College president Bryan Albrecht at the Foxconn hearing.

Erpenbach said he knows there are some Senate Republicans with concerns about the bill and he’s hopeful the process will include more input from Democrats.

“The Senate tends to be a little more deliberation at times,” he said.

Tuesday’s hearing began with representatives from the governor’s administration, including Hogan and Department of Administration Secretary Scott Neitzel, two of the people involved in negotiating the deal with Foxconn.

“This project’s impact will be more than just the black and white ROI numbers that I am accustomed to reviewing,” Hogan said.

Erpenbach and Hintz spent the early part of the hearing pressing Hogan and Neitzel on a number of issues, including clawbacks, Illinois workers and the competition Wisconsin faced for the deal. Erpenbach pointed to Gov. Walker’s comments that Wisconsin was not the top bidder for Foxconn and asked which state had the largest offer.

“We know that the offer that we put on the table was far less than what the company was looking for,” Hogan said as he and Neitzel both repeatedly declined to name another state.

Hintz said the company had made billions of dollars in commitments around the world in recent history and questioned if those pledges would all become reality.

“Who do you think is going to get the short end of the stick?” he asked.

“Not us,” Neitzel said, arguing it makes strategic sense for the company to have a U.S. plant to meet demand for the U.S. market. “If they don’t build, if they don’t employ, no money goes out the door from the State of Wisconsin.”

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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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