MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Senate's top Republican said Thursday that he wants to know when the jobs Taiwanese electronics maker Foxconn has promised to create in the state will materialize, as his caucus ponders whether to approve an incentive plan for the company.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said he doesn't know if he has the votes to pass the package and has outlined a number of concerns with the proposal over the last few days. He added another one Thursday, telling the regionally syndicated conservative talk radio program "The Jerry Bader Show" that's there's no timeline for when jobs will actually appear.
"The one thing we're still trying to get a handle on, say we go through all these hoops ... but then the jobs don't show up," he said. "There's no timeline for job creation and that's got a lot of people nervous. I think (a timeline is a) prudent and a smart thing to have in place. We'd like a relationship where we can predict when will the jobs be created and how quickly."
President Donald Trump announced last month that Foxconn decided to build a plant in southeastern Wisconsin. The company has said the facility could eventually employ up to 13,000 people.
Gov. Scott Walker has introduced a bill that would lay out $3 billion in tax breaks for Foxconn, including up to $1.5 billion in payroll tax credits and up to $1.35 billion in tax credits on expenditures for fixed assets such as land and buildings. Walker's campaign sent out an email Thursday promising Foxconn will bring "tens of thousands of jobs" to the state and asking people to sign a petition saying they support the company's arrival.
Assembly Republicans plan to take the first votes on the bill next week and send it on to the state Senate. Fitzgerald said Wednesday that he doesn't know if he has the votes in his house. He said during the radio interview Thursday that he hasn't done a "nose count" of members and some senators still haven't read the bill. The caucus planned to meet Thursday afternoon with Walker cabinet officials who negotiated the incentives with Foxconn to learn more about the bill.
Fitzgerald has said he's concerned about a fiscal analysis that found the state wouldn't break even on the incentives package for at least 25 years. He backed off that during the radio interview, however, saying he's more concerned with what might happen five or 10 years down the road.
He has also complained about Assembly Speaker Robin Vos drafting amendments to the plan without Senate input and has pushed to pass the stalled state budget before taking on the Foxconn bill. That stance has raised questions about whether lawmakers will meet a Sept. 30 deadline that Walker and the company agreed to for passing the package.
Fitzgerald reiterated during the radio interview that the budget needs to get done to enable the incentives bill to take effect. The bill calls for borrowing $252 million for highway improvements around the plant. Fitzgerald has said that part of the package complicates solving a $1 billion deficit in the state's transportation fund.
GOP infighting over how to fill the shortfall has stalled work on the budget, which was due July 1. Walker and Fitzgerald want to borrow money and delay projects; Assembly Speaker Robin Vos wants to raise more revenue and has suggested raising the gas tax, a move Walker has rejected as he prepares for a re-election campaign next year.
Fitzgerald told the radio show Thursday that he doesn't understand why Assembly Republicans are OK with borrowing for roads to help Foxconn but won't support borrowng to bolster the transportation fund.
"It makes no sense," he said.
Despite all that, Fitzgerald said he hopes the package can clear the Legislture within the next couple of weeks.
"Nobody wants to fumble the ball here," Fitzgerald said. "You've got to get members in the right place to support this. It takes a while to get there."
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