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— Gov. Tony Evers says Foxconn was first to suggest changes to its contract with the state and is asking the company to help officials better understand its plans after scaling back its initial project for the Racine County site.
Evers’ letter follows his comments last week suggesting it was “unrealistic” that the company would create 13,000 jobs at the plant and suggesting changes may be needed to the up to $3 billion incentive package Foxconn signed with his predecessor.
Evers’ indication he was looking to change the deal prompted criticism from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau. Both suggested Evers was trying to undermine the deal, the largest incentive package in state history, by seeking changes.
But Evers asked Foxconn exec Louis Woo in today’s letter to clarify the Taiwanese company was the first to suggest changes to its contract with the state. He also wrote Woo, the special assistant to the company’s chair and CEO, suggested during a March meeting that Foxconn intended to seek changes to “better align the terms with the evolving project and global marketplace.”
Evers added it was the first time he was aware of either side suggesting a change to the contract. He also wrote Woo updated Vos and Fitzgerald the same day of the company’s intentions.
“As we have discussed with Foxconn representatives, the State is identifying areas we believe will enable greater flexibility and transparency as the project continues to evolve,” Evers wrote. “We will offer those changes in the same spirit of cooperation and constructive dialogue with you that has marked these first few months of my Administration.”
The offices of Fitzgerald and Vos didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment. A Foxconn spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a call and text seeking a response.
Evers wrote he understands Foxconn will submit documentation supporting the proposed changes to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. in the coming weeks.
“As I’m sure you understand, Wisconsinites have a keen interest in understanding how many jobs will be created for Wisconsin residents and the types and compensation levels of such jobs,” Evers wrote. “As those details become more clear about your initial phase of work, I look forward to receiving them so that we can all view this project with as much relevant information as possible.”
Tuesday’s letter was the latest chapter in the ongoing political spat over the project in southeastern Wisconsin. Foxconn signed a contract with former Gov. Scott Walker worth up to $3 billion in state incentives if the company spent $10 billion on the proposed plant and hired 13,000 employees.
Since that announcement nearly two years ago, the company has scaled back plans for the facility. Once slated to be a Gen 10 plant that would produce LCD screens the size of a garage door, the company now plans a Gen 6 facility that would produce screens that ranged in size up to a big-screen TV. It also has talked of using the facility for research and development and packaging, among other things.
— Testifying before Evers’ letter was released, WEDC CEO Mark Hogan declined to discuss potential changes to the state’s contract with Foxconn, saying he thought “enough people have commented on that.”
Hogan’s comments came during his appearance before the Senate Economic Development, Commerce and Trade Committee this morning.
— Following the hearing, Hogan said a new Foxconn contract would not be necessary.
“In either case, a similar multiplier would have been used to determine the economic value used to calculate the ROI for the state,” he wrote in an email to WisPolitics.com.
He was asked if he agreed with Evers that it is “unrealistic” to think Foxconn will create the 13,000 jobs it pledged given the company’s changes to the original project. Hogan noted that WEDC’s contract with the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer is scalable and “allows for a wide range of jobs created and capital expenditures.”
— Hogan during his testimony today also stressed the importance of the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit and continuing the repeal of prevailing wage. He labeled the measures as “significant attraction pieces” to entice and retain businesses.
“The manufacturing and agricultural tax credit is one of the three or four things that is critical to the decisions that they are making,” he told members of the Senate panel.
Hogan’s comments conflict with Gov. Tony Evers’ budget, which calls for limiting the tax credit to only the first $300,000 of income for manufacturers. The money saved would then be used to fund a 10 percent middle-class tax cut. His budget also calls for reinstating the prevailing wage on state projects.
Today’s hearing came after the Joint Finance Committee earlier this year invited just six agency heads to testify, fewer than are typically called before the body.
But the co-chairs encouraged chairs of standing committees in both houses to hear from other cabinet secretaries. Today marked the first time this budget cycle that a Senate standing committee took testimony from an agency head on the budget.
A spokesman for Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he wasn’t aware of any other committees planning a budget hearing.
No standing committees in the Assembly are planning to hold hearings on the budget, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said.
— Making his first stop in Wisconsin as a presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker said the state is essential to winning the Dem nomination and general election.
“This is a state I will be showing up in a lot trying to earn the support for the voters here,” the New Jersey Democrat told reporters during a Milwaukee stop. “I believe that there’s no pathway to the nomination without going through this great state. And, frankly, when I’m the nominee, I’ll be campaigning hard to make sure we win this state in the presidential general.”
Booker said that outreach will include talking to people from farmers to those in the inner city.
He noted many of the issues faced by those in Newark, N.J., where he served as mayor, are common to those in Milwaukee.
He made his comments to reporters following a discussion with anti-violence activists in front of a packed crowd at Coffee Makes You Black on the city’s north side.
During the roughly one hour and 20-minute discussion, activists shared their stories related to gun violence and answered questions from Booker. Following the panel, Booker took questions from the audience.
Booker pledged during the discussion to take on the National Rifle Association.
While he said he would work to close loopholes that allow people to purchase guns from the internet or gun shows without background checks, he said he had other ideas he’s not going public with yet.
“When I say I’m taking the fight to the NRA, I’m not going to telegraph all my punches,” Booker said. “You will be surprised at some of the things I will do as president to deal with this lobby.”
But he said no one person can bring about the changes needed and urged attendees to become active.
He said people have a choice each day to either “accept things as they are, or take responsibility to change it.”
Booker tied the issue of gun violence, which he said has claimed more lives in the U.S. in the last 50 years than all of the nation’s wars, to other issues such as health care, education and poverty.
To address some of these issues he highlighted his plans to lower the cost of prescription drugs, fully fund special education, lower the cost of college, raise wages and increase and expand eligibility for the earned income tax credit.
He noted the nation has gone into trillions of dollars of debt fighting wars and building prisons.
“We have created mass incarceration as our great towering testimony to our collective treasure,” Booker said.
While Booker and panelists grappled with weighty issues, there were a few lighthearted moments, such as when a microphone loudly and repeatedly began cracking.
“So much truth is being dropped the microphone can’t handle it,” Booker quipped.
— A federal judge today rejected a motion from GOP lawmakers to intervene in a lawsuit seeking to overturn abortion restrictions, rejecting their arguments that Dem AG Josh Kaul wouldn’t adequately defend the law.
What’s more, Judge William Conley wrote adding the Legislature as a defendant would needlessly complicate the case. He also noted lawmakers were still able to file friend-of-the-court briefs even though they’re not being added as a party to the suit.
Planned Parenthood in January filed the suit seeking to overturn a provision in state law that only lets doctors perform an abortion.
Conley wrote lawmakers had to show “gross negligence or bad faith” on the part of Kaul to meet the burden required to join the suit when there’s already a governmental body involved that’s tasked with defending the law.
Kaul has indicated he would defend the statute.
But Republican lawmakers argued in court they didn’t believe he would do so as ardently as they were. To back up their claim, the Legislature noted: Kaul’s endorsement by Planned Parenthood’s political arm last year; his decision to join a suit challenging the federal government’s regulations barring taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from referring patients to abortion providers; withdrawing from two multi-state suits his predecessor had filed; and his decision not to file a motion to dismiss in responding to the suit.
“Even viewed collectively, this litany fails to demonstrate (or even come close to demonstrating) either gross negligence or bad faith,” he wrote.
Conley also wrote in his decision the language in the lawmakers’ motion to intervene largely mirrors the answer DOJ submitted to the lawsuit. He also pointed out the DOJ attorneys who “previously diligently defended abortion regulations” before him and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals had been assigned to the case. He added, “there is also nothing to suggest that they will not fulfill their ethical obligations.”
Lawmakers had sought to intervene in the suit under a law they approved during the extraordinary session giving them that power when a state statute is challenged. Still, Conley wrote nothing in the law “strips the attorney general” of the obligation to defend the law and lawmakers hadn’t produced any evidence that he “does not intend to fulfill this responsibility.”
He also wrote allowing GOP lawmakers to intervene “would likely infuse additional politics into an already politically-divisive area of the law and needlessly complicate this case.”
The suit, filed in federal court in Madison, targets laws that prevent a nurse practitioner or nurse midwife from performing certain types of abortions and require women to see a physician and then later meet with the same doctor in order to obtain pills that induce an abortion.
Kaul didn’t respond to a request for comment. Neither did the offices of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, or Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester.
GOP lawmakers hired the Virginia law firm Consovoy McCarthy Park to represent them in the suit. That contract included a rate of $500 an hour for all attorneys and two caps on the expected legal fees. If the court denied the Legislature’s motion to intervene, the costs would go no higher than $100,000. But if the motion had been granted, they could climb as high as $500,000.
The contract didn’t include a cap on the possible charges for support services such as legal research, photocopying, mail and courier services. The GOP legal team also could charge separately for travel expenses incurred with the case.
Read the legal contract:
— Common Cause today filed a lawsuit in federal court asking a judge to declare unconstitutional the state’s requirement that college student ID cards include an issuance date and an expiration date in order to be used at the polls.
The suit also seeks to throw out the requirement that the cards include a student’s signature, arguing the requirement is unnecessary. Poll workers don’t compare the signatures on the ID cards to the voter rolls at precincts and other forms of acceptable ID don’t include the requirement, the suit argues.
The suit was filed on behalf of Benjamin Quintero, a sophomore at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. The school’s student ID cards don’t include the issuance date, expiration date and signature required under the law. He also has no other form of ID that meets the voter ID law requirements.
In a separate suit, a federal judge has already barred the state from preventing college students from using expired ID cards to meet the voter ID requirement. That order is still before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard oral arguments more than two years ago.
The new suit asks the court to go a step further in eliminating the requirement that student ID cards include an issuance date and an expiration date no later than two years after the card was given out.
The office of AG Josh Kaul didn’t respond to a request for comment.
— A slate of former GOP lawmakers is urging the state Supreme Court to affirm the legality of extraordinary sessions, arguing the lame-duck lawsuit is looking to upend an established practice.
The group’s amicus brief, filed today by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, also makes the case a Dane County judge’s decision to prevent enforcement of the laws “calls nearly 50 years of lawful actions in extraordinary sessions into question” while casting “a cloud of doubt and uncertainty” over past actions.
The suit, brought by the League of Women Voters and others, alleges the December extraordinary session wasn’t properly convened under the Wisconsin Constitution, rendering the laws invalid.
In all, seven former lawmakers signed onto today’s brief: former Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow, former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, former state Sens. Terry Moulton and Leah Vukmir, plus former state Reps. Garey Bies, Adam Jarchow and Jesse Kremer. Moulton, Vukmir, Jarchow and Kremer all participated in the December session.
The filing argues the Legislature “is the master of when it meets.” It added the body also authorized its own schedule for the 2017-19 period, and the Dane County judge’s ruling would nix its ability to have its own unplanned session — a “direct conflict with the Legislature’s own authority to ‘determine the rules of its proceedings.'”
— President Trump today touted his upcoming rally in Green Bay via his Twitter feed.
“Big crowd expected, much to talk about. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” the president tweeted.
That prompted a response from Dem presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
“Trump promised to protect American jobs,” Sanders wrote. “He lied, and workers across Green Bay and the Fox Valley have lost their jobs. When we are in the White House, we will end the corporate greed behind the Shopko closures, Kimberly-Clark layoffs and Foxconn scam.”
See the president’s tweet:
See Sanders’ response:
— The president today also tweeted about Milwaukee manufacturer Harley-Davidson.
Trump feuded with the company last year after it announced plans to build bikes overseas in order to avoid tariffs the European Union had announced in retaliation for tariffs the Trump administration had slapped on European products.
The tweet quoted Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo that, “Harley Davidson has struggled with Tariffs with the EU, currently paying 31%. They’ve had to move production overseas to try and offset some of that Tariff that they’ve been hit with which will rise to 66% in June of 2021.”
Trump added, “So unfair to U.S. We will Reciprocate!”
— On the same day a West Allis man came forward to claim the third largest Powerball jackpot in U.S. history, two Republican lawmakers announced legislation that would allow future winners to remain anonymous.
Manuel Franco was introduced at a Madison news conference today as the winner of the $768.4 million jackpot. He told reporters he bought $10 worth of tickets at a New Berlin gas station and will opt to take the lump sum of $477 million.
The bill, sponsored by Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Rep. Gay Tauchen, R-Bonduel, would ban the state, the lottery and the retailer who sold the ticket from revealing the winner’s name, address or Social Security number if the individual requests anonymity.
The bill would allow certain exemptions to determine the withholding of winnings for unpaid taxes, court judgments or child support. The location where the winning ticket was sold also would continue to be made public.
Thursday: WisPolitics.com luncheon with JFC co-chairs
Join WisPolitics.com for lunch at The Madison Club, 5 East Wilson St., Madison, on Thursday, April 25, with the veteran Republican co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.
Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, will discuss Gov. Tony Evers’ budget plan and GOP budget priorities.
Check-in and lunch begins at 11:30 a.m., with the program going from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
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LRB-2059: Immunity for motor vehicle sellers. By Sen. Kapenga and Rep. Duchow.
LRB-2776/1: Privacy of lottery winner. By Reps. Vos and Tauchen.
LRB-1285/1: Diabetes care and prevention plan. By Sens. Darling and Taylor and Reps. Vorpagel and Sargent.
Track bills for free:
State Journal: State jobs agency CEO: Foxconn deal a ‘solid contract,’ no need to revise it in light of changes
State Journal: UW System grads from out of state could ‘earn’ in-state tuition under bill
Capital Times: Alternative Dane County jail options estimated to cost more than Public Safety Building addition
AP: Supreme Court struggles with Wisconsin drunken driving law
AP: Judge denies Republicans’ attempt to join abortion lawsuit
WRN: West Allis man claims last month’s Powerball Jackpot
Journal Sentinel: Tony Evers will veto ‘born alive’ abortion bill advanced by GOP lawmakers
Journal Sentinel: Joe Bartolotta, co-founder of the restaurant group, dies at age 60
Politico: Mueller report exposes diminishing power of Trump denials
Politico: Dems move to hold former White House official in contempt
Reuters: Trump decides administration officials cannot attend White House correspondents dinner
Reuters: IRS fails to meet congressional deadline for Trump tax returns
New York Times: On Census Citizenship Question, Supreme Court’s Conservatives Appear United
New York Times: Pelosi Urges Caution on Impeachment as Some Democrats Push to Begin
Washington Post: White House plans to fight House subpoena of former counsel Donald McGahn for testimony on Mueller report
– 8 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.: MMAC World Trade Association: “The challenges of global product compliance.” Speaker is Angus Low, global product standards and regulations manager, Rockwell Automation.
– 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.: Joint Committee on Finance public hearing. UW-Green Bay.
– 11 a.m.: Assembly Speaker’s Task Force on Suicide Prevention informational hearing. Members are to take testimony from invited speakers.
– 12:15 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.: Madison Rotary Club. Guest speaker is author Alfred McCoy, who is to discuss his book, “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power.” Rotary meetings are open to members, invited guests and media.
– 1 p.m.: PSC hearing.
– 4:30 p.m. – 6 p.m.: Sen. Schachtner fundraiser.
– 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.: MMAC: Madison Night in Milwaukee.
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