Fri, Aug 11, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Wisconsin wavers on Foxconn deal

COMPLICATIONS:Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is assessing the effects of the bill on the state’s finances, but the State Assembly has already planned a vote

AP, MADISON, Wisconsin

The leader of the Wisconsin Senate on Wednesday said he does not know if he has the votes to pass a package of incentives for a Foxconn Technology Group (富士康) plant in the southeastern corner of the state, raising doubts on whether legislators will be able to meet a deadline for finalizing the deal.

Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald expressed concerns about some specifics of the deal with the Taiwanese electronics giant, which could decide to go elsewhere for its first US factory if the US$3 billion package is not approved by Sept. 30.

The Republican leader said he wants to know more about how bonding for interstate reconstruction near the plant’s site will affect a US$1 billion shortfall in the state’s transportation fund.

He also expressed concern about a fiscal analysis that found the state will not break even on the incentives package for at least 25 years.

“I just want to be able to talk intelligently about this thing and I’ll be honest with you, I can’t do that right now,” Fitzgerald said during an interview with WISN-AM radio on Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re just trying to make sure all our ducks are in a row,” he added.

Despite Fitzgerald’s concerns, Wisconsin State Assembly Republicans planned to take the first votes on the package next week, with a committee vote set for Tuesday and a full floor session scheduled for Thursday.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said on Twitter that he wants the legislature to pass the plan by Labor Day (Sept. 4).

Fitzgerald said that Vos drafted amendments to the plan without consulting the Senate, further complicating matters.

He said he plans to send the bill to the legislature’s budget-writing committee, but wants the panel to finish work on the state budget before it takes up the Foxconn bill.

“The interaction between the two documents has become very, very intertwined over the last few weeks,” Fitzgerald said.

Asked for comment on Fitzgerald’s remarks, Tom Evenson, spokesman for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, said that the governor is ready to work with both houses to bring more jobs to the state.

There was no immediate response to a message reporters left in Foxconn’s general e-mail box on Wednesday afternoon.

US President Donald Trump last month announced that Foxconn would build a 1.86km2 plant in Wisconsin.

The company has said the facility could employ as many as 13,000 people.

Walker, who faces re-election next year, signed a memorandum of understanding with Foxconn promising to deliver the incentive package by Sept. 30.

In addition to the borrowing, the package would provide up to US$3 billion in tax breaks for the company depending on how many jobs are created.

It also exempts the plant from a number of environmental regulations, lifting the requirement for environmental impact statements on construction and operations and making it easier to fill wetlands around the plant site.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp, a Walker appointee, told the agency’s board in Milwaukee that the Foxconn plant is a “gift” and that promised regulatory rollbacks in the incentive bill would not lead to environmental damage.

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