Gov. Scott Walker on Monday explained that he didn't mention Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn in his campaign announcement because "it's part of a bigger package."
In a radio interview, Walker emphasized that the $3 billion deal, the largest state payout to a company in U.S. history, will bring up to 13,000 direct jobs, 26,000 indirect jobs and 10,000 construction jobs, but added "those 13,000 jobs are no more important than the 13 jobs that we helped in the small business in Green Bay or in Superior or La Crosse."
Walker told WTAQ conservative talk host Jerry Bader he expects the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board to vote on the contract Wednesday and his administration to sign off on it by the end of the week.
"It will be part of a long process of not just Foxconn, but Haribo, Generac, a whole bunch of companies that have announced expansions in this state versus others because this is a state that’s open for business," Walker said. "And we want to ensure that everyone shares in that prosperity moving forward."
Although Walker didn't mention Foxconn by name in his kickoff speech, his campaign sent a fundraising appeal on Sunday listing Foxconn along with record employment levels and tax cuts as "successes" he will be touting all week as he tours the state.
Still, Walker's comments underscore that Foxconn might not be the kind of positive political development it was thought to be when Walker and President Donald Trump announced the deal over the summer, said Marquette Law School Poll director Charles Franklin.
"I can see wanting to emphasize the larger economic points of low unemployment and record number employed," Franklin said. "But to not include a single sentence mentioning Foxconn suggests that there is a perceived downside to Foxconn now that was not apparent in the initial announcement and messaging."
A recent Marquette poll found 54 percent of Milwaukee- area residents — those most likely to benefit directly from the company locating in Racine County — think Foxconn will improve the economy, compared with 37 percent who say it won't. Meanwhile, 48 percent say the $3 billion price tag is more than what the plant is worth, compared with 38 percent who say it's worth it. Those results split largely along partisan lines in the Republican suburbs and Democratic urban areas.
The Marquette poll hasn't asked about the issue statewide, but a survey last month from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found 41 percent opposed the Foxconn deal, 34 percent supported it and 26 percent weren't sure.
The Foxconn deal hit a speed bump last month when the WEDC board scuttled a vote for unspecified reasons. WEDC board member Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, said the reason was related to the contract exposing taxpayers should Foxconn not fulfill its end of the deal.
Carpenter urged the agency to release the full contract to the board before it votes, breaking from its typical process of only providing the board with a staff review summarizing the deal. The agency declined to release the contract until Friday, after the Legislature's top two Republicans expressed support for releasing the contract to the board.
Walker declined last week during a WEDC-sponsored trade mission to Israel to say whether the contract should be made available to the board.
Carpenter said he received a copy of the contract about an hour before noon Monday and called its release "a logical step in ensuring that this deal is sound for the taxpayers."