Assembly, Senate GOP at odds over how quickly to vote on massive Foxconn incentives package

MADISON -- On the first day of the special session on the $3 billion tax breaks for Foxconn, state lawmakers moved backward as Senate Republicans said the unfinished state budget should be the priority.

The GOP controls the state Capitol, but Republicans in the Assembly, Senate and Gov. Scott Walker have clashed increasingly in 2017 and are now divided about how quickly to advance the Foxconn incentives bill.

Assembly Republicans are prioritizing Foxconn, scheduling a committee hearing for 1:30 p.m. Thursday. The committee chairman said he wants his panel to vote on the legislation next week, setting up a vote on the Assembly floor in mid-August.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos

"For us, the biggest priority is making sure we have Foxconn moving along," said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester.

Senate Republicans don't agree to that timeline, and want to pass the budget first. Republican Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton tweeted: "Let's get the budget done quickly so we can move on to Foxconn."

The state budget is now more than a month overdue, and has forced the state DOT to delay bids for three minor construction projects within the Zoo Interchange rebuild. GOP lawmakers have been locked in a stalemate for weeks over transportation funding.

Walker met with Senate and Assembly Republicans during closed-door caucus meetings Tuesday, and said lawmakers should tackle both issues at the same time.

Gov. Scott Walker

"I believe we can get progress, and I'd like to see progress on the budget run parallel to Foxconn," Walker said.

The back-and-forth between Wisconsin Republicans came on the same day the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau released a memo detailing costs related to the incentives package.

Besides the $3 billion in tax breaks, state taxpayers could be held liable for 40 percent of the local infrastructure built for Foxconn if the company leaves the state.

Vos said the villages of Mount Pleasant in Racine County and Somers in Kenosha County don't have the borrowing capacity to pay for roads and water and sewer lines up-front, and the state would need to co-sign the loans.

"The first obligation is always going to be on the (tax-incremental financing) district and the local municipality to cover the cost," Vos said. Under the legislation, the state would pay 40 percent of the costs if the municipality couldn't under a provision called a "moral obligation pledge."

Foxconn has signed an agreement with the state in which it pledged to create 3,000 jobs up front at a plant that makes displays for flat-screen TVs, with up to 13,000 jobs over time. The company's complex would be in operation by 2020, state officials have said.

Assembly and Senate Democrats are split on the Foxconn bill, with some slamming the legislation as a giveaway to a foreign company and others optimistic about the jobs promise.

Foxconn

Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling said the process was moving too fast.

"Honestly, we don't even have a site location that has been announced," said Shilling, D-La Crosse. "I think it’s responsible that we ask these questions and proceed with caution."

The legislative snag comes the same day that Walker's campaign launched online ads promoting his work in getting Foxconn to agree to build a $10 billion plant in southeastern Wisconsin.