Mike Browne, Deputy Director
MADISON, Wis. — As the state legislature’s Joint Audit Committee reviews another critical review of the performance of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), a contract between the agency and Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn to implement the details of the largest state subsidy to a foreign corporation remain hidden from the public. According to the audit, the agency created by Gov. Scott Walker in 2011 continues to fail to adequately track jobs created or retained and has a dramatically increasing amount of potentially uncollectible loans. Meanwhile, despite a request from a WEDC board member, the agency appears set to continue to hide the details of the contract with Foxconn until after it is signed.
“Another audit finds Gov. Walker’s WEDC continues to fail to meet even basic standards of accountability and competence,“ commented One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “They have done nothing to earn the public trust and their behavior in hiding from the public the details of how they intend to send billions of our tax dollars to this corporation until after the contract is signed is outrageous.”
The terms of the massive nearly $4 billion state and local subsidy for Foxconn to build a factory in Southeastern Wisconsin, including nearly $3 billion in cash payments from Wisconsin taxpayers to the Taiwanese-based corporation, were rushed into law by Gov. Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature in September.
The provisions of the deal fail to require Wisconsin tax dollars only go to support Wisconsin jobs, include no worker protections for those working for a company whose CEO referred to employees as “animals” and literally consulted with a zookeeper for management tips, give special exemptions from state environmental protections to the corporation and limits the powers of judges in cases brought against Foxconn.
Now the contract to implement the terms of the deal is being negotiated behind closed doors. A member of the WEDC board has demanded the provision be made public before it is signed, but the agency has refused to respond to date.
Ross noted a new public opinion poll shows that even the citizens of Southeastern Wisconsin where the plant is proposed to be built are skeptical of the size of the handout for what they have been promised in return. In the five counties around the proposed site merely 38 percent of those surveyed think the spending billions of dollars on subsidies to Foxconn that could have been used for schools, roads or investments in homegrown companies will be worth it.
He concluded, “This is a bad deal for Wisconsin, negotiated by a desperate Gov. Walker focused only on his own political future, that will be managed by an agency that has failed time and again to demonstrate basic competence. The people of Wisconsin are right to think they’re getting scammed.”