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Lawmakers, Administration Officials Spar At First Hearing On Foxconn Incentive Bill

Democrats Raise Questions Over Details Of Legislation

The state capitol
Wisconsin state Capitol. Phil Roeder (CC BY)

Lawmakers and state officials clashed Thursday over a $3 billion incentive package that’s part of a deal to bring a mammoth Foxconn electronics factory to Wisconsin. The debate came during the first legislative hearing on the measure, before a state Assembly committee Thursday.

Democratic state Rep. Tod Ohnstad is from Kenosha, one of the areas the Taiwanese tech giant is reportedly considering for the plant that will make liquid crystal display screens. He said he still has “many unanswered questions and concerns at this time.”

“The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has not yet provided a fiscal analysis of this bill,” Ohnstad said. “I’m disappointed we don’t have the data we need to fully analyze this deal at this time.”

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Ohnstad said he’s also concerned about other parts of the bill that would waive numerous environmental permit requirements and regulations to speed construction.

But members of Gov. Scott Walker’s administration testified in support of the package, calling Foxconn’s potential $10 billion investment in the Wisconsin plant a “once-in-a-century opportunity.”

Department of Administration Secretary Scott Neitzel said the project, which could eventually create 13,000 new jobs in southeastern Wisconsin, will help keep talent in the state.

“This opportunity will produce a Wisconsin brain gain, which will end our brain drain. We cannot let this opportunity pass us by,” he said.

Other parts of the bill include borrowing more than $250 million to rebuild Interstate 94 near where the plant would be.

Democrats questioned how much local governments will have to invest in infrastructure if Foxconn builds in their community.

Lawmakers were scheduled to hear testimony from members of the public Thursday evening.

This story was updated at 6:20 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017.