Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled state Assembly voted 59-30 on Thursday to approve a bill that paves the way for a $3 billion incentives package for a proposed liquid-crystal display plant by Taiwan’s Foxconn. The plan still needs to be approved by the joint finance committee, which has members from both the Assembly and the state Senate, as well as the Senate before it can go to the governor. The finance committee and Senate are also controlled by Republicans. Foxconn, an electronics manufacturer formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, hopes to open a $10 billion plant in 2020 at a 1,000-acre site in southeastern Wisconsin.
Foxconn is a major supplier to Apple Inc for its iPhones. “We are ready to take advantage of this historic opportunity … and build a long-lasting relationship with Foxconn,” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican who helped negotiate the deal, said in a statement. Walker ordered the legislature into special session on Aug. 1 to consider the incentives package, which would award Foxconn $3 billion over 15 years in mostly cash incentives. Foxconn, Walker, President Donald Trump and other leaders announced the deal on the incentives last month in a White House ceremony.
The 20-million-square-foot LCD plant would initially employ 3,000 people, but Walker and Foxconn said the company could ultimately employ 13,000 at the site. “We look forward to continuing to work with them to transform Wisconsin’s economy and make it a center of worldwide high-tech manufacturing,” Foxconn said in a statement, referring to the legislature. Proponents have touted the project’s investment potential and job creation, including an expected 22,000 ancillary and 10,000 construction jobs. Critics including some Democrats have attacked the plan as corporate welfare, too expensive, rushed and potentially harmful to the environment.
“I think we need more time,” Democratic Representative Jill Billings said. “I want a better deal and more guarantees for my taxpayers.” Thursday’s vote did not follow strict party lines; three Democrats voted in favor and two Republicans voted against. Early in a debate that lasted several hours, Democrats proposed referring the matter to the finance committee for review, which would have stopped the debate. The Assembly rejected the proposal with a 57-32 vote. The Assembly also voted to ignore three amendments proposed by Democrats. Wisconsin would not break even on the incentive package for at least 25 years, a legislative analysis released last week said.