MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Assembly on Thursday sent Gov. Scott Walker a multibillion-dollar subsidy package for a Taiwanese company, putting within reach the governor's bid to place a massive flat-screen plant in the state.
The bill passed 64-31, with all but two Republicans voting for the bill and being joined by Democratic Reps. Cory Mason, Jason Fields, Peter Barca and Tod Ohnstad.
Walker and GOP lawmakers have promised that the Foxconn Technology Group plant will bring thousands of jobs to Wisconsin and transform the state's economy.
The electronics-maker could receive up to $2.85 billion in cash from state taxpayers under the deal, which would make it the largest incentive package for a foreign company in U.S. history.
"This is wonderful news," said Rep. Tom Weatherston, R-Caledonia, who represents a district near the likely site for the plant. "There's a lot of people — talented people — in our corner of the state that need great jobs."
Walker won't return from a trade mission to Asia until late Saturday, but the governor could sign the measure as soon as next week. He has not said whether he will use his powerful partial veto pen on the bill.
Most Democrats opposed the deal, saying the potential cash payments are too costly for taxpayers and come with too many environmental rollbacks for Foxconn.
"Stop asking your hardworking constituents … to line the pockets of billionaires," said Rep. Amanda Stuck, a Democrat.
In an unsigned statement, Foxconn officials thanked lawmakers "for their vote of confidence."
"We are eager to work with the people of Wisconsin to make it a center of worldwide high-tech manufacturing," the statement read.
The Assembly approved the package 59-30 last month but had to take it up again because the Senate adopted changes to it on Tuesday. Barca, who was criticized by some fellow Democrats for supporting the bill, said last week he was stepping down as minority leader in the wake of his vote.
In the Senate, the deal — which is more than 10 times as big as any previous state subsidy to a private project in Wisconsin — passed 20-13, largely on party lines.
Foxconn is in final talks with officials in Racine County to build a massive plant that would manufacture liquid crystal display panels, an industry that doesn't now exist in the United States. The nearby city of Kenosha dropped out of the competition to land the facility.
Company officials have said they would invest up to $10 billion in a campus that would occupy up to 20 million square feet. It could employ as many as 13,000 workers and spawn the creation of up to 22,000 additional jobs at suppliers and other area businesses, according to Foxconn.
Under the deal, the state would pay the manufacturer up to $2.85 billion in cash over 15 years, depending on how many jobs it creates and how much it invests in the plant. The company would receive an additional sales tax break worth up to $150 million on construction material for the factory.
It would take the state up to 25 years to recoup its investment, even accounting for the economic ripple effect of the project, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has said.
The bill would exempt Foxconn from some state rules protecting wetlands and waterways, provisions that environmental groups say they'll challenge in court.