The architects of the deal to bring Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn to Wisconsin say they could not have gotten a better deal for taxpayers.
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation CEO Mark Hogan and Department of Administration Secretary Scott Neitzel discussed the deal on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.
Gousha asked about criticism that they “gave away the store” in the nearly $3 billion agreement with Foxconn to build a huge plant in southeastern Wisconsin.
“Could you have driven a harder bargain in the negotiations with Foxconn?” Gousha asked.
“No. I don’t believe so. We didn’t meet the number that they asked for, that’s the bottom line,” Hogan said.
“And ultimately when we looked at it, and we looked at the amount of capital expenditures, and the commitment on the company’s side relative to the employment and all of the other things that go with it that you cannot quantify, we truly can sit here today and look at it and say that Wisconsin got a good deal, for a lot of money there’s no doubt about it,” Hogan added. “But there’s an incredible commitment on the part of the company and the opportunity for the state of Wisconsin is limitless.”
Neitzel called the agreement “transformative” and said it will create “an ecosystem for high-tech manufacturing right here in Wisconsin.”
Hogan said the state is currently negotiating the contract with Foxconn.
“Our understanding with the company is $10 billion investment in the state of Wisconsin, 13,000 jobs, and we will provide $2.85 billion in tax credits to the company,” Hogan said.
“The way we set this up is that the company has to invest dollars or hire employees before they get a dime of state incentive money,” Neitzel said.
“They are very committed to being here in Wisconsin. They are very committed to being a part of the Wisconsin business community. They want to make this ecosystem good for the whole state,” Neitzel said.
Neitzel also said Foxconn will have to meet all environmental laws and “all we’re doing is streamlining some of the upfront paperwork.”
Also on the program, state Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, who has announced a bid for governor next year, said he will vote against the Foxconn bill.
“We worked hard to try to find a way to go to yes on this,” Wachs said. “We need jobs. Jobs are important, it’s critical, particularly in the area where this place is proposed to be.”
But the harder he looked at it, Wachs said, the more he became concerned about the needs of taxpayers in the deal, especially with a payback that doesn’t come until 2042-2043.
“It’s not a good deal. It’s not a good deal at all. And I don’t think taxpayers are being well served by this deal.
”And the other thing about it is, they are rushing this through. If we had months to sit down and take a hard look at this and analyze everything, that’d be a different story,” Wachs said. ”But to spend $2.8 billion or $3 billion on this project at this point in time with very little time to reflect on it, I just don’t see how we can do it, I can’t go to yes.”
Wachs also said he had environmental concerns about the Foxconn bill.
About his bid for governor, Wachs said he would be “something different” in the 2018 race.
“I’m not a career politician. I’ve spent my career in the courtroom, in courthouses. I’m a hunter and a fisherman coming from northwest Wisconsin,” Wachs said.
Wachs said he also wanted to give a voice in government to “regular folks.”
“The functional reality is that the government right now is serving the needs of massive corporations. Powerful special interest groups come into that building with baskets filled with money in order to have their way,” Wachs said. “It’s not the people’s government any more. It’s the government of massive corporations.”
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