It has been a busy summer in the State Legislature. The 2017-19 state
budget was due on June 30, but as of today, has still not been
completed. In addition, in late July an announcement that technology
manufacturer Foxconn has chosen Wisconsin for a new LCD large screen
production facility was made at the White House that included up to $3
billion in Wisconsin taxpayer funded incentives.
State Budget Update:
When a budget is not passed on time, Wisconsin’s state government and
funding continues at the levels of the previous budget. However, after
almost two months of delay, there are concerns on the timing and
certainty of new funding. This funding will impact state highway
projects and local school district budget decisions. The Joint Finance
Committee (on which I serve) has met twice in the past week to pass
budget items for
state building projects, and some Department of Natural Resources
items. The unresolved budget items are transportation funding and tax
policy, which are on the agenda for the next Joint Finance Committee
meeting on Tuesday, September 5th.
I was pleased that the budget for K-12 education included an
increase in funding after years of cuts under Governor Walker.
However, when adjusted for inflation, the K-12 budget remains below
funding levels from more than a decade ago when the state maintained a
commitment to fund two-thirds the cost of public education. In fact,
earlier this year the Oshkosh Area School District approved
$1.3 billion in budget cuts based upon the anticipated amount of
state funding. Despite the per pupil funding increase the school
district is projected to receive from the state, it's not enough to keep
up with the district's $2.5 million in rising costs, which include
increases in salaries, health insurance, benefits and a 1.26 percent
I was also pleased to see $3.2 million included in the budget for
community and school mental health collaboration grants in the K-12
budget. However, I was disappointed at the continued expansion of the
taxpayer funded private school program that will be paid for with
increased local property taxes.
On July 26, Foxconn Technology Group announced a plan to potentially
invest $10 billion to build a display panel plant in Wisconsin that
would employ 3,000 workers with the potential for 13,000 workers in the
near future. The plan would be based on conditions included in a
legislative package that includes up to $3 billion in subsidies from
state taxpayers, removal of environmental standards, and significant
financial incentives at the local level. The proposal lacks details and
timelines and all economic assumptions are based on data included in a
report that was paid for by Foxconn.
Here is an overview of the plan.
Since the announcement, there has been an aggressive campaign led by
Governor Walker in an effort to get the $3 billion incentive package
signed into law. He was successful in getting the State Assembly to pass
the plan just 17 days after the announcement. The State Senate has yet
to consider the plan, however a hearing was held before the Joint
Finance Committee on August 22 where I was able to ask questions.
I oppose the plan because it is irresponsible and puts all of the risk
with the taxpayers of Wisconsin. The non-partisan
Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis of the state incentive package
for the Foxconn proposal estimated that under the best case scenario,
taxpayers would break even by 2043.
It could be even longer if fewer people are hired, or there is
significant investment in automation at the proposed facility. In
there are plenty of questions about the feasibility of the plant,
the history and reputation of the company, and the future market for LCD
screens in an
increasingly competitive marketplace with changing consumer tastes.
There is nothing in the legislation regarding job requirements – how
many, how long they last, whether they go to foreign workers, etc. And I
am greatly concerned about
reducing environmental protections for a foreign company with a poor
environmental track record.
There may be changes made to any bill that comes before the State Senate
which means it would have to be considered again by the State Assembly.
Have a great Labor Day weekend,
and if you have any questions or feedback, please contact my office.
State Representative, 54th Assembly