State Senate Passes Foxconn Package

State Senate Passes Foxconn Package

The Wisconsin Senate has voted to change a provision in a $3 billion incentive package for Foxconn Technology Group that originally would have given the electronics giant an automatic expedited track to the state Supreme Court.

However, that wasn't enough for Senator Rob Cowles who was the lone Republican in the Senate who voted no.

With the City of Kenosha removing itself from consideration on Tuesday, Racine County is the frontrunner to land the Foxconn plant.

Foxconn was eyeing locations in southeastern Wisconsin, in between Milwaukee and Chicago. Sites in western Kenosha County also may still be in the running. Foxconn wants to open the factory by 2020 and initially employ 3,000 people.

Under a GOP amendment approved on Tuesday, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation would be required to set job creation thresholds for Foxconn for each year, which the company would be required to meet in order to claim $1.35 billion in capital expenditure tax credits.

Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, appealed to her Democratic colleagues during Tuesday's debate. She calls the incentives a "good deal for Wisconsin taxpayers". "Be a part of it", Darling said. It is the largest state incentive package in US history for a foreign company.

The package would help Foxconn build a $10,000,000,000 manufacturing facility for LED panels in Southeast Wisconsin, which could create up to 13,000 jobs.

Republican proponents of the deal, most notably Governor Scott Walker, have touted the Foxconn deal's potential to create up to 13,000 jobs, with salaries starting at about $54,000.

The tax credits will be refundable, meaning any amount by which they exceed Foxconn's tax liability - expected to be near zero - would be refunded to the company in cash. It would take at least 25 years for Wisconsin to see a return on its investment, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said the bill puts too few stipulations on Foxconn in exchange for a massive payout from taxpayers.

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"Why would we sign off on a $3 billion agreement when we don't know what we're going to get?" asked Sen. "It's costing us $3 billion and we haven't even taken it for a test drive yet".

Democratic amendments would also strengthen environmental protections. Shilling and Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Delta, said their constituents in northern and western Wisconsin, hundreds of miles from the likely Foxconn site, overwhelmingly oppose the bill.

A second Republican amendment approved on Tuesday would scale back some significant changes to the legal process introduced and passed by the Joint Finance Committee last week.

That's a more stringent requirement than one added by Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee, which would have required WEDC "attempt to ensure" the company "has sought, and is seeking, to satisfy certain hiring goals in this state" to qualify for those tax credits.

Foxconn could get almost $3 billion in cash payments if it hires 13,000 people and invests $10 billion on the flat-screen production facility.

The bill exempts Foxconn from permits that are otherwise required for filling wetlands, straightening streams, and disturbing other waterways.

The company would still be subject to permit limits on air pollution, wastewater discharges and disposal of hazardous waste.

Madison attorney Lester Pines, who has challenged Republican laws and raised constitutional concerns with the original proposal, said Tuesday that the new revision still raised questions about separation of powers. "There was a lot of pressure early on. but I think we've improved this bill significantly, with the changes we have made".

Plus Foxconn issued a statement, reading, "We eagerly await being able to take the next steps in this partnership and make Wisconsin a center of worldwide high-tech manufacturing".

The legislation now goes before the state Assembly on Thursday.

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