Our Take on Foxconn

By Rep. Taylor, Rep. Sargent, Rep. Berceau

As Dane County legislators, we are proud of the thriving community that we represent. Dane County is home to a world class research university, great public schools, clean and vibrant parks, and arguably the most comprehensive transportation system in the state. 

And we are creating jobs and growing our economy at a top rate.  Despite sometimes outlandish policies and politically motivated rhetoric about Madison by Wisconsin’s GOP leadership, between 2006 and 2016, Dane County was responsible for 58 percent of the state’s job growth. 

Which is why we are particularly concerned about the Foxconn “deal”, the largest economic incentive package in state history, being rushed through the Legislature at lightning speed by top Republicans.  We believe that the interests of Wisconsinites are being sacrificed to the re-election interests of Governor Walker and the financial interests of a multinational corporation. 

Since existing corporate handouts most likely negate any potential state income tax liability, Foxconn could receive upwards of $3 billion in cash from state taxpayers for creating what it estimates will be a minimum of 3,000 jobs in addition to building a massive manufacturing plant in southeastern Wisconsin.  Michael J. Hicks, Director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, estimates that each Wisconsin household will pay $1,200 to this scheme where Foxconn doesn’t even have to hire Wisconsin workers. 

Given that Foxconn operates in a highly automated industry, cash Foxconn receives for its anticipated capital expenditures, concentrated in the first four years of this proposal, may not only produce a budget shortfall but may automate Wisconsin workers out of any potential jobs.

Local communities will be on the hook for millions in infrastructure development and emergency services to support this project without any guaranteed additional support from the state.  Local environmental issues created by Foxconn’s ability to pollute state wetlands and waterways will leave Wisconsinites with the cleanup tab.  And if Foxconn doesn’t live up to its promises of jobs and capital investments?  The state has little authority to recoup lost taxpayer money.  Just yesterday we learned from the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau that taxpayers will not break even on this deal until 2043 – a quarter of a century after the project is slated to begin. 

We all want Wisconsin to grow jobs and succeed. But the speed in which Assembly Republicans are fast tracking this legislation is alarming.  Republican legislators held a public hearing on the bill within two days of its introduction and before a fiscal analysis was conducted. Despite being a multinational, multi-billion dollar company potentially receiving up to $3 billion in taxpayer cash, more than state funding for the entire UW System budget, Foxconn chose to submit a written statement rather than testify in person and field questions.  Special “invited speakers” spoke for over seven hours before members of the public were allowed to testify. 

Now we hear that Foxconn may have additional interests in Dane County for unrelated businesses. 

Regardless of where Foxconn ends up, rather than more handouts to big corporations, we need fair, prudent proposals that are thoroughly vetted and that work for Wisconsin workers, families and communities. The current bill for the southeastern Foxconn facility will be financed on the backs of Wisconsinites who stand to lose needed investments in their communities, in their children, in their public schools and in their roads.  As legislators, we owe the public a better process and a better proposal.