Wisconsin debates billions in incentives for Foxconn plant

By Suzannah Gonzales
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Wisconsin lawmakers debate billions in incentives for Foxconn plant

By Suzannah Gonzales

(Reuters) - The Wisconsin State Assembly on Thursday opened debate on a $3 billion incentive package for a proposed liquid-crystal display plant by Taiwan's Foxconn, a deal that caused a stir when it was announced by President Donald Trump last month.
A vote on the deal was expected to immediately follow the debate. It will be the first time a chamber of Wisconsin's Republican-controlled legislature has voted on the Foxconn plan.
Foxconn, an electronics manufacturer formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd <2317.TW>, hopes to open a $10 billion plant in 2020 at a 1,000-acre site in southeastern Wisconsin.
Foxconn is a major supplier to Apple Inc for its iPhones.
Wisconsin's Republican governor, Scott Walker, ordered the state legislature into special session on Aug. 1 to consider the incentive package, which would award Foxconn $3 billion over 15 years in mostly cash incentives.
Foxconn, Walker, Trump and other leaders announced the deal on the incentives last month in a White House ceremony. It must now be approved by lawmakers.
The 20 million-square-foot LCD plant would initially employ 3,000 people, but Walker and Foxconn said the company could ultimately employ 13,000 at the site.
Proponents have touted the project's investment potential and job creation, including an expected 22,000 ancillary and 10,000 construction jobs.
"We need to do everything that we can to make businesses thrive to replace those that have closed or moved outside our state borders," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican, said during Thursday's debate.
But critics including some Democrats have attacked the plan as corporate welfare, too expensive, rushed and potentially harmful to the environment.
"I think we need more time," Democratic state Representative Jill Billings said. "I want a better deal and more guarantees for my taxpayers."
On Monday, the Wisconsin Assembly's jobs and economy committee voted 8-5, along party lines, to advance Foxconn legislation.
The committee rejected 22 amendments proposed by Democrats, including a requirement that at least 70 percent of employees must be Wisconsin residents.
After the Assembly votes, the legislation still needs approval by the Wisconsin State Senate and joint finance committee, which has both Assembly and Senate members, before going to the governor. The finance committee and state Senate are also controlled by Republicans.
Wisconsin would not break even on the incentive package for at least 25 years, according to a legislative analysis released last week.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Matthew Lewis)