The Foxconn deal has cleared another hurdle. The state Senate approved a $3 billion incentives package Tuesday for the Taiwanese electronics giant to build a huge LCD screen manufacturing plant in southeastern Wisconsin.
It appears the factory would be located in Racine County, since the city of Kenosha announced it’s taking itself out of consideration. The city said it couldn’t support the project, citing state laws that restrict tax incremental financing districts and levy limits.
Senators debated the Foxconn incentives package for more than seven hours, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle delivering passionate speeches. Republicans backed the deal that Gov. Walker's team brokered with the company.
Sen. Alberta Darling insists the LCD screen plant will be transformational. She says Foxconn will employ up to 13,000 people. And Darling pointed to a study from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, which projects an economic impact of $78 billion over a 15 year period.
“What if we don’t take this opportunity? And, for as many people that are coming to you and saying don’t do it, you’re going to hear more people say, why in the heck did you mess this opportunity up for us?”
Darling called on Democrats to “look into their hearts” and support the bill. But, Democrats weren’t obliging. Since the deal was announced, they've criticized the size of the incentives -- a record $3 billion -- and the fact that the package would free the Taiwanese company from some environmental regulations.
Sen. Janet Bewley's district is in northern Wisconsin. She says she's heard very little support for the Foxconn plant -- planned for the state's southeastern corner -- from her constituents.
“One person from my Senate district called and said support this bill. One. 56 called my office and said don’t support it.”
Democrats pushed for a number of changes to the bill, including increased environmental oversight and assurances that Foxconn would prioritize Wisconsin workers. But, all of the amendments failed.
Democratic Sen. LaTonya Johnson of Milwaukee urged Republicans not to vote for the incentives package, in part, because estimates show it would take the state 26 years to recoup the $3 billion. Johnson says the package is a huge corporate giveaway that taxpayers cannot afford.
“These are individuals who are going to work every day and they are working their fingers to the bone, and they don’t have this amount of money in assets,” Johnson says.
But Republican Sen. Frank Lasee gave the package his vote of confidence. He says he believes Foxconn will honor its commitment to invest $10 billion to build the plant, as the company creates jobs. Lasee says otherwise, the deal is off.
“If Foxconn doesn’t hire a single person in Wisconsin, we will not be providing any money to them,” Lasee says.
While Republicans rejected the Democrats' amendments, GOP lawmakers did change a provision that was in the bill that the Joint Finance committee approved last week. The provision would have mandated that any circuit court rulings involving Foxconn go directly to the state Supreme Court, bypassing the appeals court process. Under the change senators passed Tuesday, the Supreme Court would have the option to take an appeal, but would not be required to hear it.
The bill passed on a vote of 20-13. Green Bay Republican Robert Cowles was the only member of his party to oppose it. Robert Wirch -- whose district is in Kenosha County -- was the only Democrat to vote in favor. The state Assembly is scheduled to take up the incentives package tomorrow.