The state Legislature's Republican majority remains fractured as the clock ticks on the state budget and a deal to bring Foxconn to Wisconsin.
Assembly Republican leaders said Wednesday they expect to vote next week to approve a $3 billion incentive package for Foxconn, which plans to open a massive manufacturing facility in southeastern Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told reporters it is "absolutely" his plan to delay action on the Foxconn bill until work on the state budget is complete. The two-year spending plan is now more than a month overdue.
"I'm not doing it just to do it," Fitzgerald said. "I think it's a necessity to try and get the state budget in a good place."
Assembly GOP leaders said they are tentatively planning a committee vote on Tuesday, followed by a floor session on Thursday.
"Since our hearing, our committee has entertained a number of ideas for how this legislation can be made better," said Rep. Adam Neylon, R-Pewaukee, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy. "Working with members from both sides of the aisle, I remain committed to finding workable solutions as we look to enhance this bill."
The committee heard testimony on the bill for nearly 10 hours last week.
Gov. Scott Walker told conservative radio host Jerry Bader on Wednesday that Republican lawmakers are working with Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, and Rep Cory Mason, D-Racine, on amendments to the legislation. That news raised eyebrows among Democrats who have staunchly opposed the deal, including Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison.
Senate Republicans are waiting to see what amendments come from the Assembly process, Fitzgerald said.
"It’s not something we’re working together on right now, that’s for sure," he added.
Fitzgerald said he thinks that "absolutely" could delay work on the bill.
While Assembly Republicans are hoping to approve the deal quickly, Senate Republicans have argued since the bill that the state budget should be completed first. Walker said last week he thinks both pieces of legislation can be passed on the same timeline.
"We're getting closer, but I feel like I'm kind of negotiating with myself at this point, just trying to get the caucus to a position on (eliminating the) personal property tax, how much cash we should have in the balance after this budget is completed, some of the transportation projects that would have a direct effect on the level of bonding, and how all of this relates to Foxconn," Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said he is hopeful the Joint Finance Committee will meet later this month. It would be a "last resort" for the Senate to take action on the budget on its own, but Fitzgerald said he wouldn't rule it out.
A spokeswoman for Vos did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Walker called into several conservative talk radio shows on Wednesday and discussed the deal, which he says will be "transformational" for the state. He has taken to comparing the Foxconn deal to the Green Bay Packers signing defensive end Reggie White to the team in 1993.
"Was biggest deal in NFL history. They wanted to transform the team," Walker tweeted.
Under the proposal, Foxconn would be eligible for up to $1.5 billion in credits for $9.5 billion of payroll expenditures over a 16-year period, and $1.35 billion in credits for $10.7 billion of capital expenditures over a five-year period.
The company would also be eligible for a sales and use tax exemption on building materials, supplies and equipment used for construction of the facility, amounting to about $139 million.
Wisconsin would break even on the deal 25 years after it is approved, according to analysis released Tuesday by the the state's nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
For the next 15 years, starting in 2017, the state would pay a total of $1.04 billion more than it takes in by having Foxconn in the state. Starting in fiscal year 2033-34, the state would take in about $115 million per year in increased tax collections, leading to a break-even point in 2042-43, the report said.
Democrats were critical of the analysis, questioning how the deal would affect other areas of the budget.
"Taxpayer funded assistance this massive in size will certainly create budget problems for the state, and likely result in another round of cuts to our most valued priorities. When considering this multi-billion dollar legislation, we must also consider the far-reaching impacts it will have on every budget for the next 15 years," said Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, a member of the Joint Finance Committee.
Hintz has previously said he would like to be able to support the deal, but has too many unanswered questions to make a decision.
Fitzgerald said Senate Republicans are still "trying to digest" the analysis, adding that there is "some stuff that's pretty striking there" — in particular, the length of time before the state will recoup its investment.
"If people are really being honest, if they put aside their political partisan blinders on this people realize this is one of those moments we just got to step up and do the right thing," Walker said.
Under the memorandum of understanding signed by Walker and Foxconn CEO Terry Gou last month, the state must approve the deal by Sept. 30.
Fitzgerald said he doesn't currently know whether his caucus has enough votes to pass the legislation. He said he wishes he knew why the Sept. 30 deadline is so firm, but is optimistic the bill can be passed within that time frame.
"That’s the issue, is, is it going to be a good deal for taxpayers?" Fitzgerald said when asked whether he believes it is one. "And a lot of that is going to be based on the viability of what happens over the next 15, 25 years, and what is the payback going to be? It’s difficult to really measure that right now. Everyone loves the idea that Wisconsin becomes the center of high-tech development domestically in the U.S., and if that happens, it’s going to be, like they say, a gamechanger."