WED PM Update: Evers: 13,000 Foxconn jobs ‘unrealistic’; GOP leaders accuse guv of undermining deal

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— Gov. Tony Evers says it’s “unrealistic” to think Foxconn will create the 13,000 jobs it had pledged given the company’s plans to scale back the original project.

He also said he’s looking to potentially revise the company’s contract with the state, saying the current document “deals with a situation that no longer exists.”

“Clearly the deal that was struck is no longer in play, and so we will be working with individuals of Foxconn and of course with WEDC to figure out how a new set of parameters should be negotiated,” the guv told reporters in his Capitol office this afternoon.

Evers added it’s “premature” to say what changes to the contract could be on the table but said the state needs to examine the contract “and see if it needs to be downsized as a result.”

When the Foxconn project was first unveiled, the company announced plans for large screen production at what’s known as a Gen 10 facility as part of a $10 billion investment with plans to hire up to 13,000 people.

But it then scaled back to a Gen 6 fabrication facility — a commitment it reaffirmed last month amidst media reports suggesting the Racine County facility could become more of a research and development hub with packing and assembly functions.

The company also failed to create enough jobs in 2018 to qualify for the first round of tax credits in the nearly $3 billion package the Walker administration negotiated with the Taiwanese manufacturer.

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Secretary and CEO Mark Hogan in a statement said he and Administration Secretary Joel Brennan have had “ongoing discussions” with the company that “include consideration of the effect the company’s evolving plans may have on WEDC’s contract and our steadfast commitment to protect the taxpayers of Wisconsin.”

“I fully expect these conversations to continue as the construction of Foxconn’s manufacturing campus ramps up over the next several months,” he said.

— Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos raised concerns about Evers’ comments.

Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, accused the guv of wanting to “undermine the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation from day one.”

“If the state is willing to renege on its commitment to Foxconn and open up a contract without agreement by both parties, then what guarantee can Wisconsin make to any other company that wants to expand here?” Fitzgerald asked.

Vos, R-Rochester, struck a similar tone, saying he’s been concerned that Evers would try to undermine the Foxconn contract.

“Luckily, WEDC negotiated an ironclad contract with expectations from both sides,” Vos said. “As Foxconn works to create 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin, I’m open to hearing if any flexibility is needed to achieve that goal, which I hope is the intent of Governor Evers.”

A Vos spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on what the speaker meant by flexibilities for Foxconn.

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said Fitzgerald and Vos’ comments suggest they are trying to deflect blame for the “egg on their face” for Foxconn so far failing to live up to the promises it originally made the state. Hintz, a member of the WEDC Board, said Evers’ comments were a sign he was trying to bring transparency and accountability to the project.

If Foxconn is no longer going to produce the giant LCD screens it once envisioned, Hintz said the state should re-examine, for example, the approval it gave to Racine to divert an average of 7 million gallons of water a day. Of that, 5.8 million gallons would be used by Foxconn under the application.

“There are no 13,000 jobs. There are no $10 billion of investment,” Hintz said. “The reality is we don’t have an idea what, if anything, is going to happen.”

— Foxconn says Terry Gou’s potential run for Taiwan president wouldn’t impact his plans to stay on as chairman or affect the operations of the company.

The company’s statement comes as media outlets reported Gou is planning to run for president after he told reporters in Taipei he’ll be seeking the Kuomintang party’s nomination next year.

“I will participate in the KMT primary,” Gou was quoted as saying in Bloomberg. “If I win I will run in 2020 on behalf of the KMT.”

But the company said the reporting “misinterpreted Mr. Gou’s actual remarks.”

“Mr. Gou stated he will run for the KMT’s nomination for President if the primary process – which is still being determined by party leadership – is open, transparent, and grounded,” the company said. “When and if this determination is made, Mr. Gou will run in the KMT’s primary to seek for the party nomination for President.”

The statement added the company’s operations “remain unchanged.”
Evers this afternoon said he doesn’t expect Gou running for president would impact the company’s deal with the state.

“I think we’re at a point now where we are relatively confident that the original footprint of that project is going to be much smaller, but it seems to be a footprint that everybody agrees is likely to happen,” he said.

The response marks the latest example of the Taiwanese tech company refuting media reports that quote Gou directly. Foxconn earlier this week disputed a report from Reuters that said Gou plans to step down in the coming months but still be involved in the “major direction” of the company.

But the company at the time said Gou is planning to withdraw from daily operations after having developed and mentored a “new generation of talent to carry on Foxconn’s mission.”

Referencing the Reuters report, the company today reiterated its statement from Monday saying Gou “will continue to provide strategic direction and guidance.”

Changes to Gou’s role at Foxconn could impact Wisconsin, as he is personally on the hook for 25 percent of the clawback payments the company would have to make if its deal with the state falls through.

See Bloomberg’s coverage:

— Evers today also touted the feds’ granting of a 10-year extension to Wisconsin’s SeniorCare program.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services signed off on the extension Friday, allowing the program, which subsidizes prescription drug costs for low-income seniors, to continue operating until December 2028.

The program, which dates back to 2002, is used by nearly 50,000 Wisconsin seniors, according to the Evers administration. The 10-year renewal request was initially submitted under then Gov. Scott Walker last June.

Evers, joined by Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm and AARP Wisconsin members, highlighted the program’s popularity and success across the state, as well as its continued bipartisan support.

“We know how much seniors have relied on the program to choose prescription drug coverage that’s right for them at the prices they can afford,” he said at a news conference this afternoon.

— Attorney General Josh Kaul says he has no plans for the state Department of Justice to launch an investigation into staff actions at Lincoln Hills.

His comments at a Press Club luncheon in Milwaukee came days after the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin concluded its federal investigation into the troubled youth prison. The office announced Friday it found insufficient evidence of criminal conduct by staffers.

Kaul said he believes the federal prosecutors conducted “a full and thorough investigation” into the case. The federal investigation was opened following allegations guards used excessive force in violation of the constitutional rights of the teens incarcerated at the prison in Irma.

“I think it’s really important to emphasize that, regardless of the outcome of the federal investigation, regardless of the fact that there were no criminal charges, there’s no question we need substantial reform to our juvenile corrections system here in Wisconsin,” Kaul said.

The AG recommended the state continue with efforts to regionalize the juvenile corrections system. He said he believes it’s important that kids remain close to their homes. He also said he thinks the state needs to focus more on reform than detention.

Evers today also said he wants to “move beyond” investigations into Lincoln Hills, and he deferred to Kaul over whether a state-level probe should be launched.

“The previous administration and the Legislature made the legislative effort, political effort, to close that prison and to create new opportunities closer to home for those kids. And so that’s where our focus has to be,” Evers said.

Lawmakers last session approved a plan to close Lincoln Hills and the neighboring Copper Lake, where girls are incarcerated, by 2021.

— The latest update from a court-appointed monitor found the state’s youth prison system still wasn’t compliant with orders to ensure rooms are “suicide resistant.”

The report also found strip searches without probable cause had been reinstituted in January despite a court ban on doing so. Prison staff said the searches were a “hygiene” check.

The monitor also wrote in the report the use of pepper spray still needed to be reduced and prison staff complained of being overworked and not feeling safe.

Read the report:

— Kaul also said the lame-duck laws that limited his and the guv’s powers have complicated his first 100 days in office and slowed down his ability to get results.

But he said his office is “focused on the long term” and he’s proud of what DOJ has managed to achieve so far, such as the

bipartisan legislation aimed at preventing further backlogs of sexual assault kits.

On the ongoing December extraordinary session lawsuits, Kaul said he’s confident the Supreme Court would ultimately uphold a Dane County judge’s decision to block the laws.

That’s in spite of Judge Brian Hagedorn’s win in the race for the high court over rival Lisa Neubauer, which will cement a 5-2 conservative majority on the court after Hagedorn is seated Aug. 1.

“One thing that both candidates were very clear on is that politics should not play a role in legal decisions and they should take cases based on the facts of the case,” Kaul said. “But the issues that are at stake in the extraordinary session are not issues where there has been an ideological divide.”

Kaul added that respect for the principles of separation of powers is something that dates back to the founding of the state and the nation. He said he believes the handling of litigation is “a classic executive branch function” and he thinks the lame-duck laws are “so unusual” that there will be “broad consensus” among the justices.

— Kaul expressed support for legalizing medical marijuana before pursuing full legalization.

He said he sees momentum in the Republican-controlled Legislature and the recent non-binding referendums in certain counties showed overwhelming public support on the issue.

Hear the audio:

— Kaul today announced the Department of Justice is dropping an appeal of a lawsuit ruling that said Wisconsin can’t change the regulations governing payroll deductions for union dues.

As part of 2015 Act 1, union workers could opt out of the payroll deduction, known as a “dues checkoff authorization,” after just 30 days. But after the International Association of Machinists challenged the legality of measure, a trial court ruled that the 30-day period violated the Labor Management Relations Act. The federal law governing unions mandates a one-year period before dues checkoffs can be revoked.

After a federal appeals court sided with the trial court, former Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court in the waning days of his tenure. Kaul today announced that the DOJ would drop the appeal but did not offer any further comment.

The law remains on the books in Wisconsin but is unenforceable due to the caveat that it “applies to the extent permitted under federal law.”

Kaul received a $4,500 donation made by the political arm of the International Association of Machinists in the leadup to last fall’s election, according to the state’s database of contributions.

DOJ spokeswoman Gillian Drummond said that “political donations do not affect decision-making at the Wisconsin Department of Justice.”

See the stipulation of dismissal:

— Dane County Judge Jill Karofsky is the latest potential candidate to emerge for next year’s state Supreme Court race.

Multiple sources told that Karofsky has been making calls to gauge support for a possible bid as a left-of-center candidate.

She won an open seat on the Dane County bench in 2017.

Before that, Karofsky worked as an assistant and deputy district attorney in the Dane County DA’s Office from 1992 to 2001. She then worked for the National Conference of Bar Examiners before joining the state Department of Justice, where her work included serving as the violence against women prosecutor and leading the Office of Crime Victim Services.

Marquette University Law School Prof. Ed Fallone, who lost a 2013 challenge of conservative Justice Pat Roggensack, has already announced plans to run next year, when conservative Justice Daniel Kelly is expected to be on the ballot. Other potential candidates who have been mentioned include 4th District Court of Appeals Judge Michael Fitzpatrick and former U.S. Attorney James Santelle.

— Dem U.S. Sen. Cory Booker will be in Milwaukee Tuesday for his first visit to Wisconsin since formally launching his presidential campaign.

Booker will participate in a community roundtable on gun violence prevention at Coffee Makes You Black, according to details listed at his campaign website.

Booker’s visit comes after fellow Dem contenders Bernie Sanders, Julian Castro, Beto O’Rourke and Amy Klobuchar made stops in the state. It also comes ahead of President Trump’s rally in Green Bay on April 27.

See details on the event:

— Dem operative Jessica Lovejoy, whose work in Wisconsin includes Justice Rebecca Dallet’s Supreme Court campaign last year, has joined Booker’s staff, according to a social media post.

Lovejoy is now working for Booker’s national organizing team.

She is the Midwest director and vice president for 50+1 Strategies, a California firm.

— Wrapping up a two-day tour of the southwestern border, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said today he will propose legislation that would require a more stringent analysis of the claims by asylum seekers.

And to help stem the tide of those seeking asylum at the southern border, the Oshkosh Republican wants to allow border agents to detain asylum seekers longer so they can be deported if their claims turn out to be false.

Johnson, chair of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, stressed in an interview with that he isn’t looking to increase the standard to qualify for asylum. Rather, his interactions with asylum seekers lead him to believe most are seeking economic freedom, not protection from persecution.

If they knew there was a consequence for falsely representing their intentions, he argued, many wouldn’t take the risk of making the journey to the U.S. or paying thousands of dollars to those offering to shepherd them there.

“We’re a very compassionate country,” Johnson said. “We’re not going to turn them back if they have a valid asylum claim.”

Under current law to qualify for asylum, someone must show they have been persecuted by their government or will suffer due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion.

According to Johnson’s office, 76 percent of asylum applicants pass the initial “credible fear” interview, but ultimately 21 percent receive asylum.

Johnson said he’d like to see only 50 percent passing that initial screen by making it more rigorous. He also said allowing the government to detain asylum seekers longer while their claims are viewed would make it easier to deport those who aren’t granted asylum.

According to the Washington Post, migrant children can’t be detailed for longer than 20 days under a 1997 federal agreement. That results in minors and parents usually being released together after that so they’re not separated.

As the situation at the border has ramped up, President Trump has shaken up leadership at the Department of Homeland Security.

Johnson said he didn’t think that has impacted the situation, saying he has confidence in acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, adding he’s moving “quite quickly.”

The president has also raised the possibility of transporting asylum seekers to sanctuary cities and releasing them there. Johnson said his proposal would address the problem so you “don’t have to worry about” the president’s plan. Still, he praised the optics, saying it was a “smart political point” for the president to make.

“It really reveals the hypocrisy of the left to want open borders and sanctuary cities,” Johnson said. “But, boy, actually talk about sending these individuals to these sanctuary cities, and they start screaming.”

See an overview of Johnson’s proposal:

— Gov. Tony Evers is seeking applicants to replace appeals court judges Brian Hagedorn on the 2nd District and Gary Sherman on the 4th.

Hagedorn won the state Supreme Court race over fellow Judge Lisa Neubauer earlier this month and will be sworn in Aug. 1.

His replacement on the appeals court will complete a term ending July 31, 2021.

Sherman, a former Dem lawmaker who represented a northern Wisconsin Assembly seat, is retiring from the Madison-based 4th District effective July 5.

His replacement will fill the remainder of Sherman’s term, which runs through next year.

See the releases:

— DNR Secretary Preston Cole says he’s looking to work with the ag industry to help address manure contamination of drinking and surface water in the state.

The former Natural Resources Board member told reporters yesterday he expects “a robust conversation” with stakeholders that could include discussions about improving regulations, examining the role of regional digesters, trading water pollution credits and more.

“The department anticipates a robust conversation with impacted industries that apply manure to sensitive areas as to what that strategy looks like going forward, what kinds of regulations need to be improved, what kinds of adaptive management strategies can come in play to mitigate the harm to drinking water and surface water,” he said during a Q-and-A yesterday.

Other steps, Cole said, could also include looking at new or planned expansions for large-scale farms, called concentrated animal feeding operations. He added when CAFO operators turn in their permits to the DNR, there could be an opportunity for a dialogue. But he didn’t say the agency should change how it decides on permits.

Specifically, he pointed to the karst geology of certain eastern Wisconsin counties, where soil overlays fractured bedrock and allows pollutants to more easily enter the groundwater.

“We’re not making anybody leave, we’re not turning folks down. But look what you’re getting into when you go to locations that have swiss cheese as an (underlining) and all of the practices that you have to put in play,” Cole said.

Cole, who recently met with members of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, said the group is “ready to come to the table” to discuss those issues.

Karen Gefvert, the group’s executive director of governmental relations, agreed.

“We want to have that engagement,” she said. “Farmers need to be part of the solution. And in order to be part of the solution we have to be part of the conversation. I’m not saying we’re going to agree to whatever it is that’s on the table, but we’re willing to have this conversation.”

And Dairy Business Association Government Affairs Director John Holevoet said while DBA hasn’t yet met with Cole, the group shares his concern about manure contaminating the state’s water.

“We can play a role in finding solutions to lots of different problems that we face on the landscape,” he said.

— Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin has started a new campaign knocking Dem Rep. Robyn Vining for her support of Gov. Tony Evers’ budget and her vote against the GOP middle-class tax cut plan.

The effort targets the Wauwatosa freshman for her support of higher taxes — through an expected $1.2 billion increase in taxes and fees in Evers’ budget that would impact “working families and small businesses,” the door hangers say.

The group is also using door hangers to thank two GOP senators — Patrick Testin, of Stevens Point, and Tom Tiffany, of Minocqua — for votes they’ve cast earlier this session.

That includes applauding Testin’s rejection Evers’ $2.5 billion capital budget, a move the door hanger says shows Testin’s “commitment to protecting taxpayers by voting against reckless, big-pork projects in Madison and Milwaukee.” Testin, a member of the Building Commission, joined Republicans in voting against each project last month.

“Sen. Patrick Testin knows protecting our future means making tough decisions today,” one door hanger says. The other says the senator “is fighting to keep our tax dollars right here in our community.”

Meanwhile, the Tiffany door hangers highlight his support of the Republican middle-class tax cut plan.

“Sen. Tom Tiffany is fighting for us,” one says. “Sen. Tiffany understands the challenges facing Northwoods families.”

An AFP spokesman declined to comment on the amount of money behind the campaign, which the group says is in its first wave and primarily includes canvassing and phone banking. Going forward, digital ads, handwritten postcards and direct mail will be announced in the near future, the spokesman said.

See the release and examples of the door hangers:

AFP-Wisconsin: Kicks off new grassroots lobbying efforts

— Patients struggling with chronic and debilitating diseases today made emotional pleas to state lawmakers to take up a bipartisan bill that would make the insurance appeals process easier and allow patients to access prescription drugs recommended by a doctor.

The legislation addresses the process known as step therapy, a cost-saving method employed by insurance companies. Under step therapy, patients must try a number of drugs recommended by the insurer before “stepping” up to cover the cost of the medication recommended by a doctor.

“No family should have to go through this,” said Middleton resident Anne Hefty, who testified in favor of the bill before a joint panel of lawmakers this morning.

Hefty described the process of “fighting with our insurers” to get her 13-year-old daughter medication to treat a rare chromosome disorder. According to Hefty, her daughter “rapidly improved” after receiving her doctor’s original prescription, but it took nearly eight months for her insurer to agree to cover the medication.

Under the bill, step therapy is not eliminated outright, but it instead creates exceptions that would allow patients to skip the step therapy process if they met certain criteria.

“It’s rare that we can pass bills that will have a direct impact on the lives of Wisconsinites, but this bill does just that,” said Rep. John Nygren.

The Marinette Republican, who is also an insurance agent, testified that while he understood and was “sympathetic” to step therapy as a cost-controlling mechanism, he acknowledged that there needed to be “logical, common-sense exceptions” to the process.

Along with patients, the bill has also won the support of a number of medical groups, including: the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians; the Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association; the National Psoriasis Foundation; the American Diabetes Association and the American Lung Association, among others.

Senate Health and Human Services Committee Clerk Matt Wimmer said he has not yet scheduled an executive session on the bill.

See who’s registered in favor and against the Assembly version of the bill:

See the Senate bill listing:

— A new report from UW-Madison’s Center for Research On the Wisconsin Economy finds the state would save up to $103 million by accepting federal Medicaid expansion dollars.

The report’s authors, Gwyn Pauley and Matt Wiswall, also refute a previous report from CROWE that argued the Medicaid expansion would cost the state about $600 million per year.

The earlier report, produced by both CROWE and the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, has been leveraged by Republican lawmakers in their arguments against the expansion.

The authors of the previous report were Will Flanders, research director for WILL, and Noah Williams, an economist who previously served as an advisor to Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign.

But the new report finds the authors of the earlier study deviated from “standard economic practice” in two main ways: failing to control for long-term trends in health care costs, and failing to adjust expenditure data for inflation.

“Using their data and variable definitions but standard econometric techniques, we find no evidence that Medicaid expansions in other states have increased private insurance costs,” Pauley and Wiswall wrote.

They also found that Medicaid expansions are associated with a reduction in private health insurance costs.

And even under the “most pessimistic” outlook for the number of newly eligible people coming from private insurance, the study authors estimated accepting the Medicaid expansion would still produce a net savings for the state.

See the latest report:

See the previous report:


April 25: luncheon with JFC co-chairs

Join 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.

See more on the co-chairs:

Check-in and lunch begins at 11:30 a.m., with the program going from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. subscribers and members as well as Madison Club members and their guests receive discounted pricing for WisPolitics luncheons of $19 per person. Price for general public is $25 per person.

This luncheon is sponsored by: Husch Blackwell, American Family Insurance, Xcel Energy, Walmart, AARP Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

To register, visit:



LRB-2011: Issuance by municipalities of alcohol beverage operator’s licenses. By Sen. Kapenga and Rep. Knodl.

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WPR: Evers: Foxconn Contract Should Be Renegotiated, 13K Jobs ‘Unrealistic’

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– 10 a.m.: Assembly Committee on Education executive session on AB 53, relating to pupil records; AB 54, relating to fire, tornado and school safety drills for public and private schools; and AB 67, relating to information on the school district and school accountability report.

– 10 a.m.: Assembly Committee on Education public hearing on AB 129, relating to allowing private schools participating in a parental choice program to provide hours of direct pupil instruction virtually; and AB 110, relating to developing a guidebook related to dyslexia and related conditions.

– 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.: Marquette University Law School: “Does Democracy Protect Human Rights?” Speaker is Garry Wills, professor emeritus of history and a cultural historian at Northwestern University.

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