Senate to vote on Foxconn bill as Kenosha drops from consideration

GOP amendment tightens language on job thresholds

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The Wisconsin state Senate is expected to pass legislation Tuesday clearing the way for a $3 billion incentive package for Foxconn Technology Group as it becomes clearer where the company’s planned $10 billion facility will be located.

Foxconn products on display at WCTC.

The state Assembly will need to sign off on the bill again after the Joint Finance Committee made additional changes to the bill.

Gov. Scott Walker has said the company would likely announce a location once the bill had been signed into law and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. had finished negotiating a contract with the company.

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The likely location became clearer on Tuesday as Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian wrote to Walker to say his city could not move forward with the development. Reports late last week suggested Foxconn favored Racine County for its LCD panel facility, with a real estate source telling BizTimes the location is along Interstate 94 south of Highway 11 and north of Braun Road.

Antaramian had asked for changes to the special session legislation to address concerns about tax incremental districts at a JFC hearing in Sturtevant and reiterated in his letter the city still had concerns about certain expenditures and limitations placed on the municipality.

“We have provided documents detailing our needs to both the Assembly and the Senate through the committee process as well as testifying during the public hearings,” Antaramian wrote. “Unfortunately, our voice has not been heard.”

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As debate got underway Tuesday morning, Republicans amended the bill further to direct WEDC to tie job thresholds to the capital expenditure tax credits Foxconn will be eligible for. The company could receive up to $1.35 billion in tax credits for its capital investments, but critics of the deal argued the company could receive that money if it built the factory but did not create any jobs.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said WEDC had sought stronger language in the legislation to require the thresholds.

“What we’re putting in place clearly delineates a path for that to happen,” he said.

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Fitzgerald said there is a deadline for the state to finalize a contract and the bill is now ready to move forward.

“I’m glad we did pump the breaks,” he said, noting there was pressure initially to rush the bill to the floor.

But Democrats argued the amendment did not establish a set level for the job thresholds. Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, proposed requiring the company to hit 5,000 jobs by the seventh year of the project, but that amendment was voted down.

“This is emblematic of this whole Foxconn debate,” Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said as there was some confusion over the Republican amendment.

She also said the best day the Foxconn deal had was the initial announcement at the White House and criticized comparison of Foxconn and the new Milwaukee Bucks arena.

“This ain’t no Bucks deal,” she said.

Democrats planned to put forward at least three amendments to the bill focusing on giving more priority to Wisconsin residents and companies, adding additional accountability measures and dealing with environmental concerns.

But Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said the bill does include enough transparency and accountability measures. She said the amendments from Democrats could put WEDC’s ability to negotiate a contract with Foxconn in jeopardy.

“Do you want to face that?” she said. “Do you want to be the ones that are going to say goodbye?”

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