Wisconsin Assembly panel approves Foxconn bill, legislators react

By Emily Davies and Associated Press, WSAW News 

STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) -- A Wisconsin state Assembly committee has approved a $3 billion tax incentive package for Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group.

The Republican-controlled Assembly Jobs and Economy committee voted 8-5 Monday along party lines to send the bill to the full Assembly. The proposal was tweaked to address some concerns raised by critics that the state is giving away too much to land the plant that could employ thousands of people.

But key provisions tying the tax breaks to Foxconn's promise to invest $10 billion and employ 13,000 people remain.

The committee rejected 22 Democratic amendments.

Democratic Representative Katrina Shankland told NewsChannel 7 Monday she is disappointed the Assembly is clearly not working together on this incentive, though she noted Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has the right idea in taking this process slowly.

"I want to make sure it's a fair deal. I want the ironclad protections in place for both workers and taxpayers," said Shankland. "I believe any handout that the state makes should come with assurances that the jobs are guaranteed, that they stay in Wisconsin, that they're not outsourced or automated and given to robots, and that taxpayers aren't on the hook if the company fails to meet its obligation."

Senator Patrick Testin fell in line with Shankland's remarks, telling NewsChannel 7 Monday "I thought there were some good points that were brought fourth when the Assembly took up the Committee, making sure there are set up benchmarks so we know that they get the certain incentives when they actually prove results. That's my primary concern is making sure that we're not just cutting a $3 billion check, that they get the incentives as they grow."

They both agreed, overall having Foxconn come to Wisconsin is beneficial for the entire state. Shankland urged, though, the company is asking for significant environmental exceptions that other companies in Wisconsin are not permitted.

Testin also added in speaking with technical colleges around the state and the UW System, they are working to see how they can shift resources to accomodate course work that lines up with the skills needed at places like Foxconn.

The full Assembly was set to take up the bill on Thursday. The Legislature's budget committee could hold a hearing on the measure early next week, with a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate sometime shortly after that.