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State Assembly Gives Final Approval to Foxconn Bill

The Foxconn bill awaits the governor's signature

The state Assembly on Thursday gave final approval to a $3 billion incentives Foxconn package. It's next stop is the governor's desk.

The Assembly had to take up the bill a second time, because the Senate made changes to it. The vote fell mainly along party lines but this time, one Democrat changed his vote from no to yes.

Unlike past debates, this one wasn’t a marathon. It lasted only three hours. But it was lively, and there were some testy exchanges between Republicans and Democrats, right out of the gate. The GOP has been eager to pass Gov. Walker’s Foxconn deal, while Democrats have pushed back.

Rep. Gary Hebl (D) of Sun Prairie said he finds a provision in the bill that would speed up the appeals process for lawsuits involving Foxconn offensive.

“It’s rigged, it’s rigged. The validity of this appeal process is constitutionally questionable. No other corporation, no small business, no other citizen has this privilege,” he said.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos fired back and said he’s tired of opponents using the word “rigged” when describing the deal. He has a different interpretation of the word.

“This deal is rigged. You know why? It’s rigged in favor of the taxpayer because we have protections built into the system to guarantee that not a dollar is spent until people cash a paycheck or a shovel is in the ground,” Vos said.

Foxconn plans to invest $10 billion to build the plant and it could create up to 13,000 jobs. It would likely locate the factory in Racine County, since the city of Kenosha took itself out of consideration. The city said it couldn’t support the project, citing state laws that restrict tax incremental districts and levy limits.

Republican Joe Sanfelippo of New Berlin said the plant would draw workers from across southeastern Wisconsin and pleaded with members to approve the deal.

“The people who are going to benefit from this bill are the men and women who are going to work in that plant, the men and women who are going to build that plant, maintain that plant, all the other businesses that are going to pop up because of this,” he explained.

But, Democrats continued to attack the plan, including state Rep. Lisa Subeck of Madison. She pointed to estimates that show it would take Wisconsin until 2042 to recoup the money.

“25 years. This is a bad investment no matter how you slice it. This is a big gamble and it’s a big gamble we can’t afford,” Subeck said.

Yet, one Democrat willing to take a chance on Foxconn was Jason Fields of Milwaukee. He voted against the deal last month but said he has since changed his mind. In the end, he said his constituents need the jobs. “This is about leadership, legacy and looking myself in the mirror and if I get up here and I don’t take the opportunity to fight for African-American men, then what the hell am I doing?”

The vote was 64-31. Fields and three other Democrats from Racine and Kenosha crossed party lines and supported the deal, while two Republicans broke with the majority in their party and voted against the plan.

Foxconn issued a statement following Thursday's vote, thanking lawmakers for their support and said they’re excited to see Gov. Walker sign the bill. The governor says he’ll sign it soon.

Audio courtesy of WisconsinEye

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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