Supporters and critics gather for hearing on Foxconn incentives

Published: Aug. 3, 2017 at 9:45 AM CDT
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Critics and supporters gathered at the State Capitol building in Madison Thursday to learn about and weigh in on a proposed Foxconn plant in Wisconsin.

The public hearing started at 1:30 p.m. It was expected to carry on into the evening.

Up for discussion: a $3 billion package of incentives for Foxconn that includes a break for the company when it comes to environmental regulations.

Foxconn, a Taiwanese maker of LCD screens, pledged to invest $10 billion for a Wisconsin plant, which would be built in southern Wisconsin. There's been no official announcement, but Racine County or Kenosha County are likely locations.

Prior to the public portion of the hearing, people heard from state officials who touted the package as "historic."

Gov. Scott Walker's administration says the Foxconn plant will create 13,000 jobs in a six-year period.

"The 13,000 new family-supporting jobs and the $10 billion of capital investment alone are historic. But what makes this project transformational, there's a multiple ripple effect of this investment across our state," said Scott Neitzel, Department of Administration.

The DOA says some of the jobs will pay up to $20/hour.

"The Foxconn payroll, when fully up to speed, will be over $800 million a year. This historic and transformational investment by Foxconn will propel Wisconsin's economy even more forward," Neitzel said.

Assembly speaker Robin Vos says the facility will have a $7 billion annual economic impact on the state.

The Assembly and Senate could vote on the incentives bill before the end of August.

"I think you will find that there is broad support for Foxconn. Just in the conversations I've had with legislators already, they're very supportive of the possibility here. I think everyone realizes that this will be transformational for our state," said State Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton).

Critics are concerned about the state's intention to waive the some environmental requirements for Foxconn.

Others are concerned about the potential burden upon the taxpayer.

"If our government is going to toss money around there are plenty of business what could use subsidies. There is no reason to be sending money to an out-of-state business that has a terrible record of following through with projects," says Jo Garrett of Madison.

Conservative group Americans for Prosperity, which has supported Gov. Walker throughout his career, has also come out against the $3 billion incentives package.

" much as we believe in Governor Walker’s agenda that has turned this state around, as free market activists who staunchly oppose government tax incentives, we cannot support the expensive refundable tax credits in this package, which are not available to every other business in our state,"

Democrats and some Republicans have criticized legislative leaders for holding a public hearing without a report from the state's non-partisan Fiscal Bureau.

Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) has been a vocal skeptic on social media.

"If the deal is really as amazing as they say, what's the rush? This should b a HUGE red flag 4 taxpayers. No excuse to ram it through," Hintz tweeted.

Foxconn is also interested in a second facility in Dane County, according to reports from WKOW and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. It is unknown what would be manufactured at the second plant.

"Any further speculation on Foxconn's really dependent on other things that might be happening that would affect the marketplace for them," says Gov. Scott Walker. "So, we're a ways off. If we get closer to that, we'll give you information on that as we learn more in the future."

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin told reporters that he has suggested the former Oscar Mayer site as a possible location.

"Are we interested in a Foxconn facility in Madison? Yes we are. Are we going to lower any of our standards be they economic or environmental? No we are not," Soglin says.