Vote Expected Next Week for Foxconn Bill

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Premiere Date: 
August 11, 2017

Vote Expected Next Week for Foxconn Bill

WPR Captiol Bureau Chief Shawn Johnson discusses the Foxconn bill's journey through the state legislature. Johnson talks about the speed with which the bill is moving through the Assembly, and anticipates a vote in that house next week. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is looking for additional assurances that jobs will be created.

Episode Transcript

Frederica Freyberg:

The special session bill that would approve the incentive package for Foxconn is steaming through the legislature. The Assembly is scheduled to vote on it next week. The Senate will hear the bill before the Joint Finance Committee. In tonight's Capitol Insight, we check in with Capitol Bureau Chief at Wisconsin Public Radio, Shawn Johnson, on the latest. Thanks for being here, Shawn. 

Shawn Johnson:

Hey, Fred. 

Frederica Freyberg:

Between now and that floor action, lawmakers are working on amendments. Do we know how many and what they're about? 

Shawn Johnson:

In terms of the amendments that are being worked on by Adam Neylon, who chairs that committee-- the Republican lawmaker who chairs the committee that's hearing the Foxconn bill. He said there's going to be about 7 to 10 amendments that will get rolled into one. He's looking for bipartisan support on those. And at least what we've heard from Neylon, those would have some language in there about having a Wisconsin first priority when it comes to giving Wisconsin business first priority for some of this stuff but that would not be a mandate. There would be some language in there so that it would make clear this was not just letting the Department of Natural Resources do whatever it wants to in terms of permitting for this Foxconn plant but the devil is always in the details on that stuff. There would be no benchmarks on job creation. And I think one of the most significant things that we learned is that that committee is making an effort to make sure whatever they do with amendments doesn't change this memorandum of understanding that was signed by Governor Scott Walker and the Chairman of Foxconn. Essentially whatever the legislature does through this committee they want to make sure it's not big enough that it changes that. 

Frederica Freyberg:

So that Terry Gou of Foxconn does not walk away from it? 

Shawn Johnson:

Right. If they are not going to make changes significant enough to change that memorandum of understanding, they're working around the edges at that point. 

Frederica Freyberg:

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald late this week says he wants the bill to go before Joint Finance for a hearing. He has expressed concerns about these benchmarks of which you speak. Let's take a listen to some of what he told WPR Capitol Reporter Laurel White earlier this week. 

Scott Fitzgerald:

If Foxconn comes, locals make the investments, the state makes the investment and then the jobs aren't coming as quickly as anticipated or forecasted, we would like to see some type of protection there or some type of assurance that the jobs are going to happen. 

Frederica Freyberg:

It looks like late this week he will settle for those benchmarks not being baked into this bill. What kind of assurances has he gotten? 

Shawn Johnson:

You did at least see his--maybe if not all of his positions on Foxconn, his tone did evolve on it this week. He went from wanting those in law where it would be an ironclad guarantee to after he talked with Representatives from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation - WEDC - which is administering the contract with Foxconn. They said we could put those guarantees in the contract. And so you don't need to deal with those in state law. So it wouldn't carry the strength of putting job guarantees in state law, but Senator Fitzgerald says they'd be taken care of in the contract with WEDC and that'd be okay with him. 

Frederica Freyberg:

What about this Fiscal Bureau memo that came out earlier in the week talking about how the breakeven year on this deal with Foxconn would be 2043. Is that giving pause to lawmakers on both sides? 

Shawn Johnson:

So that was another one where Fitzgerald said, when that came out, that it was pretty striking stuff in there. And just to put that in some more context, the memo was saying that if Foxconn creates 13,000 jobs, which is the ceiling for what they've said they could create and if it spins off and creates another 22,000 jobs elsewhere, all of that tax revenue compared to all the tax revenue the state is giving Foxconn would balance out in 2043, 26 years from now. Fitzgerald is the one that talked about this so far, but he's got some push-back from conservative talk radio on that. And they essentially said get this done fast. They're not on-board with any kind of trepidation on that. 

Frederica Freyberg:

Meanwhile, Scott Fitzgerald wants to do the state budget at the same time as the Foxconn bill or roughly at the same time? What kind of a heavy lift is that? 

Shawn Johnson:

It is a heavy lift. Usually the budget would be done by now, especially with single party control but that's hanging out there. You do have a lot of interplay between the Foxconn bill and the budget bill, because in the Foxconn bill there is $252 million in borrowing for this I-94 expansion between Milwaukee and Chicago near where this Foxconn plant would be built. By the way, a huge priority for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Essentially they put part of the transportation budget into the Foxconn bill already. And you know, through that lens it does kind of make sense they deal with them around the same time. 

Frederica Freyberg:

There are going to be a lot of long nights I think in the Joint Finance Committee. 

Shawn Johnson:

Pretty good prediction, yes. 

Frederica Freyberg:

Shawn Johnson, thanks very much. 

Frederica Freyberg:

You're welcome. 

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