Foxconn incentive bill passes committee: GOP looks to change state’s legal system

MADISON — Foxconn Technology Group could appeal lawsuits directly to the conservative controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court under changes to a $3 billion incentive package approved by the Legislature's budget-writing committee -- something Democrats have called another giveaway in the hopes of attracting the massive LCD screen plant.

Rep. John Nygre

The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee approved the bill Tuesday, September 5th on a party line 12-4 vote. That clears the way for the state Senate and Assembly to take it up later this month.

"As I said with my kids, this is probably the biggest thing to happen to Wisconsin since the cow. I mean really," Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette.

The committee approved some changes to the bill, including allowing any lawsuit involving Foxconn to skip the state appeals court and go straight to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. No other Wisconsin business is granted that expedited process, and Democrats said it was another handout to Foxconn.

Joint Finance Committee

Rep. Gordon Hintz

"We're gonna give away up to $3B, change the environmental standards and change the legal process. I don't know about you guys, but that doesn't make me feel any better about the bill than I did two weeks ago when I had to vote on it," Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh said.

After concerns surfaced that Foxconn could get $1.5 billion for building its plant without hiring many permanent workers, Republicans added a requirement that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. try to figure out if Foxconn was meeting hiring goals before paying out the tax breaks.

"I'm pretty confident if somebody's going to invest $10 billion in capital in the state of Wisconsin, they intend to provide a significant amount of workforce and an opportunity for them to make that money back," Nygren said.

The hiring goals haven't been laid out. Democrats said the requirement wasn't a strong enough guarantee that Foxconn would hire the promised number of workers.

Rep. Katrina Shankland

"I feel like that is the opposite of stringent. It is the opposite of protection. It is the opposite of ironclad, and if this is the best amendment that can be brought today, I find it incredibly disappointing," Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point said.

The bill also waives state environmental regulations to speed construction of the plant.

Foxconn has said it may invest $10 billion and employ 13,000 at the flat-screen construction plant.