Sun, Aug 13, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Republicans revise Foxconn bill ahead of vote

AP, MADISON, Wisconsin

Wisconsin Republicans on Friday announced revisions to a state incentives package for Foxconn Technology Group (富士康), including provisions that would tie tax credits to the number of living-wage jobs created and encourage the company to hire Wisconsin residents.

The Taiwanese electronics giant plans to build a 1.86km2 plant in southeastern Wisconsin that the company has said could eventually employ up to 13,000 people.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has introduced a bill that would lay out US$3 billion in tax credits for the company, exempt the plant from a host of environmental regulations and borrow US$252 million for interstate highway repairs around the plant.

Walker’s fellow Republicans control both the Wisconsin Senate and State Assembly, but the two chambers have spent the past two weeks at loggerheads over the bill.

State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who represents portions of Racine County where the plant could end up, has been pushing to pass the measure.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has been more cautious, outlining a number of concerns about the plan. One of his main complaints has been that the bill does not lay out any deadlines for Foxconn to create jobs.

Vos released the new version of the bill on Friday afternoon.

The changes tie payroll tax credits to the number of jobs Foxconn creates that pay between US$30,000 and US$100,000 yearly. They also call for state officials to include terms in any contract with the company that encourage hiring Wisconsin residents.

Those revisions are designed to allay fears the jobs will be low-paying and could go to Illinois residents.

The new bill also calls for spending US$20 million on worker training from 2019 to 2021.

That language will help create a pipeline of workers for both Foxconn and small businesses that lose employees to the massive plant, Vos said.

The package retains provisions exempting plant construction materials from local sales taxes. Also remaining in the bill is a call to borrow US$252 million for road work and requiring a federal match before spending it.

However, new language would require the state legislature’s budget-writing committee to sign off on any spending plan.

The assembly’s jobs committee plans to vote on the new bill tomorrow, with a full floor session to follow on Thursday.

Passage would send the bill to the senate.

Fitzgerald has said he does not know if he has the votes to pass the bill in his chamber, drawing criticism from influential conservative radio talk show hosts worried he might blow the deal and drive Foxconn to another state.

On Thursday, Fitzgerald emerged from a meeting with his members saying that they had made headway and he believes the budget committee could meet and pass the bill by the end of this month.

However, the new bill does not contain any deadlines for creating jobs.

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