Like many Wisconsinites, I was thrilled when I first heard the news that Foxconn Technology Group, a supplier to Apple and other tech companies, chose our state to build a new facility that could potentially employ many of our people. It’s more validation for what we already know: Wisconsin workers are the best in the world.
For years, I’ve worked to create and bring in more high-quality jobs to Wisconsin — helping lead the renewal of downtown Eau Claire and working across party lines to help keep the Bucks in Milwaukee.
But after reading the details of the Foxconn deal, I’ve become appalled at what a bad deal it is for Wisconsin — from the staggering price tag borne by taxpayers, much of it cold hard cash just given to the company, to lack of protections for workers, our water and air.
Unless the Legislature dramatically improves this terrible deal, I will vote no in the state Assembly. Let me tell you why.
First, there is absolutely no reason for such a rush to approve this deal. This artificial deadline created by the governor and Foxconn’s CEO feels like a way to avoid oversight and scrutiny. Nowhere in the private sector would they close a deal like this in less than a month. It’s a major red flag. A deal of this size deserves more scrutiny, not less.
Second, this is a terrible deal for Wisconsin taxpayers. As the Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported, the best-case scenario leaves taxpayers on the hook until 2043. And that’s the best case. A young Wisconsinite about to start kindergarten this month will be nearly 30, or older, before this deal could have a chance to pay dividends for our state.
And it’s worth wondering: Will there even be iPhones in 25 years?
But here’s the bigger problem. If you read the deal — and I encourage everyone to — there is no guarantee it will create even a single job. No guarantees. No clawbacks. No accountability. Just a huge, irresponsible blank check to a foreign corporation.
Beyond that, this deal has no provisions to ensure workers are paid good wages and benefits. Any taxpayer-funded incentives must be good for workers, not just CEOs.
Finally, as an avid outdoorsman, I’m troubled by the provision to waive environmental standards and simply trust a foreign company to protect Wisconsin water, air and land. Foxconn’s track record in China is troubling, to say the least. And surely the next corporation to come knocking will want the same deal — and that next time could impact your favorite fishing or hunting spot.
To sum it up, I am all for smart incentives to bring in good jobs. But we do not need to bring Chinese-style economics to Wisconsin where workers are mistreated, where our air and water is polluted, and where the government supports corporations with reckless giveaways.
This and every deal should live up to our Wisconsin values: 1. Protect Wisconsin taxpayers. 2. ensure any jobs supported by taxpayers are good-paying, family-supporting jobs. 3. Strike a reasonable balance between economic growth and our natural resources.
Wisconsin has the greatest workers in the world, and they’re among many assets that are attractive to companies looking to grow. I support the use of tax incentives to attract new businesses. But they must be used responsibly to help Wisconsin taxpayers — not just corporate interests.
Let’s also do more than just give away the store to big corporations. We should promote homegrown growth in our state. For three years in a row, Wisconsin has been dead last in new startup businesses.
I believe we need to work with our small- and medium-sized businesses to help them grow and create more jobs here. Let’s invest in our own people, not just give blank checks to foreign corporations.
And let’s invest in our infrastructure and our workforce of the future — not rely on Hail Mary economics like this governor is doing.
Those are the kind of deals that will help all Wisconsinites, and that I will pursue as governor.