There’s no doubt Wisconsin’s economy is struggling under the failed leadership of Gov. Scott Walker. The numbers don’t lie. Data from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show Wisconsin lost nearly 4,000 manufacturing jobs in calendar year 2016. The same source also has data showing that wages fell in the same time period and economic growth was at less than 1 percent. Additionally, other data show us that far too many Wisconsin families continue to live under the federal poverty line.
With these perpetually lackluster job numbers hanging over his administration, it didn’t come as a surprise that Walker recently launched an effort to lure a foreign company to build a plant in the southeastern corner of our state. The governor has decided to peddle an unprecedented corporate welfare package to a Taiwanese company so he can use his skills as a political messenger to herald himself a job creator, despite what the actual numbers tell us. The governor is pushing a $3 billion plan that will hamper our state’s financial standing for a generation in the name of what he hopes will be personal political gain.
Unfortunately, this isn’t surprising. What is surprising is the staggering $3 billion price tag attached to the deal that includes sweeping environmental rollbacks, and the fact that, last month, self-proclaimed “free-market conservatives” voted to advance the largest taxpayer giveaway to a foreign corporation in U.S. history.
Walker, who has earned his “career politician” scout badge several times over, is aggressively using his communications team and bully pulpit to cast this as a “good deal” for the state. But according to the state’s budget agency, payments to Foxconn will soar above $300 million per year as early as 2022 and, at best, taxpayers won’t break even on their “investment” in Foxconn until 2042, 25 years from now.
The cost of giving a Taiwanese company up to $300 million a year in taxpayer funds should lead Wisconsin taxpayers to question whether this is the best approach to spark Wisconsin’s sputtering economy. What else could we be doing with the $3 billion the governor is pledging to funnel to Foxconn? This corporate welfare package is bound to create massive holes in state budgets for years to come.
What if instead of betting the house on a company from Taiwan with a checkered history of actually delivering on job promises, we used taxpayer dollars in a manner that will help families and businesses across the state, not just in southeastern Wisconsin? We could consider cutting personal income taxes for all Wisconsin workers, something Democrats have been calling for this legislative session. What if we put this money into our K-12 schools, technical colleges, and world-class research universities to spur entrepreneurial growth in STEM fields? Or what if we did any combination of the alternatives outlined above? All seem like a better deal than what the governor has brought to the table with his Foxconn boondoggle.
Walker has chosen to put all our eggs in one basket and is betting the house on Foxconn. He can’t answer how he would make up for the massive holes this giveaway will create in future state budgets, and taxpayers across the state should consider the lost opportunity that comes with this never-before-seen corporate welfare package.
Reps. Dianne Hesselbein, Sondy Pope, Jimmy Anderson, Don Vruwink, Gary Hebl and Lisa Subeck are Democratic members of the Wisconsin Assembly.
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