State Budget Committee Approves $3B Foxconn Incentive Package

By Laurel White, Wisconsin Public Radio 

The state budget-writing committee has voted to advance Wisconsin’s $3 billion incentive package for tech manufacturer Foxconn.

The committee voted along party lines on Tuesday afternoon, with 12 Republicans supporting the incentives and four Democrats opposing them.

State Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, called Foxconn "the biggest thing to happen to Wisconsin since the cow."

The incentive package includes $3 billion in tax credits for job creation and building expenses for the tech giant. It also rolls back some environmental protections, allowing the company to do things like build on lake beds and fill in wetlands without applying for a state permit.

The company is projected to create up to 13,000 jobs in southeastern Wisconsin.

Democrats pushed for several changes to the incentive package, including job creation requirements.

The committee did approve language in the bill calling for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to "attempt to ensure that (Foxconn) has sought, and is seeking, to satisfy certain hiring goals in this state."

Opponents argued that language wasn’t enough.

"I don’t know about the rest of you in your offices but my staff doesn’t get a paycheck for attempting to do their jobs, why should a foreign billionaire get from taxpayers a billion dollars for 'attempting,'" said Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh.

Lawmakers also approved new language in the bill related to legal challenges to Foxconn’s operations. Under the bill, all appeals of circuit court decisions involving the company would automatically be sent to the state Supreme Court, bypassing the court of appeals.

The bill would also grant an automatic stay of any circuit court order facing an appeal.

Democrats voiced concern about that addition as well.

"I feel like it’s rigging the game, and it’s a way to speed up the process to get a favorable decision in place, at a time when, if anything, we need strict accountability and oversight," said Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point.

Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, pushed back on that point.

"I think it’s to the advantage of both sides," he said.

Born argued the move would allow individuals involved in the lawsuit to "get to the court of last resort … get their final ruling and move on with their lives."

The Foxconn package passed the state Assembly in August. It will now go to the full Senate for approval, and then back to the Assembly to approve changes made by the Senate.