Walker Sounding Upbeat About Budget, Foxconn Package

MacIver News Service | August 31, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

[Madison, Wis…] Gov. Scott Walker is feeling pretty confident the Legislature will wrap up work on the budget and the Foxconn Technology Group incentives package in the coming days.

“We feel extremely optimistic. I believe the Joint Finance Committee is going to get their work done on both next week, the state budget and the special session bill on Foxconn,” the governor told MacIver News Service Thursday in an interview on the Dan Conry Show, on NewsTalk 1310 WIBA in Madison.

“I would expect the state Assembly and the state Senate will be in the (Sept.) 12th, 13th, and 14th and finish things off,” Walker added.

That may be a bit ambitious.

While the Senate doesn’t have any dates set in stone, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) has asked members to save the dates – Sept. 12, 14, 18 and 19 – for floor debate on the budget and Foxconn.

The finance committee is scheduled to take up the remaining elements of the overdue 2017-19 budget proposal, transportation and tax policy, on Tuesday, Sept. 5. The executive session is, at least now, slated to begin at 1:30 p.m. in Room 412 East of the state Capitol.

Fitzgerald spokeswoman Myranda Tanck said the majority leader is pleased the finance committee is back at the table following a lengthy delay this summer. How to fund the state’s transportation system has been the biggest stumbling block for Republicans, who hold a sizable majority in the Senate, and a historic majority in the Assembly.

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Tanck said she could not confirm reports that the Senate is expected to take up as many as 20 amendments to the Foxconn bill.

The Foxconn incentives package, already approved by the Republican-controlled Assembly on a mostly party-line vote, includes a potential $3 billion in tax incentives and other benefits – if Foxconn comes through on its plan to create 13,000 jobs in southeast Wisconsin at what would be the Taiwan-based tech giant’s first North American manufacturing operation.

Critics of the deal have complained the economic development package puts taxpayers on the hook, while supporters point to the “pay-as-you-grow” nature of the incentives. The bill stipulates that only jobs paying between $30,000 and $100,000 a year count toward the proposed $1.5 billion in payroll tax credits. Foxconn and Walker administration officials say the average annual salary would approach $54,000.

“I find it to be a a little ironic, some of the critics of the Foxconn deal are people who for years have said, ‘Boy, if we only had more good-paying, family-supporting jobs.’ Well, this deal provides at least 13,000 direct jobs when they (Foxconn) are up and fully operational that will pay more than $53,000 on average a year plus benefits,” the governor said.

A recent report by a University of Wisconsin-Madison economist estimates Foxconn’s proposed liquid crystal display panel production campus could spur another 26,000 indirect and induced jobs.

State Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), a member of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, said he’s looking forward to moving though the tax and transportation packages Tuesday, and finishing up the Foxconn bill as early as Wednesday.

“I would say overall conservatives should be very proud of this budget once again. It’s amazing how far we’ve come over the last seven years. We’ve not arrived at any destination,” he said of tax reform in Wisconsin in particular. “It’s going to take more years to unravel decades of socialism in Madison and Madison folks pushing that out as state policy around the state, but we’re making progress.”