MADISON, Wis. — A Democratic legislator on Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s jobs creation agency’s board said Tuesday that he believes the agency is working to ensure a $3 billion contract with Foxconn Technology Group protects taxpayers.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. has been negotiating a contract to implement the unprecedented incentives package for a Foxconn plant in southeastern Wisconsin. The agency’s board is expected to approve the deal Wednesday.
The board delayed a vote on the deal in October after WEDC officials alerted board members of an unspecified problem. Sen. Tim Carpenter, a Milwaukee Democrat who sits on the board, said taxpayer funds could be exposed if Foxconn doesn’t fulfill the deal, calling the issue a “nuclear bomb.” Carpenter, who opposes the deal, said the vote was delayed because the contract would have prevented the state from recouping taxpayer funds from Foxconn if the Taiwanese company didn’t fulfill its end of the deal.
WEDC officials haven’t released the contract publicly and had refused to hand it over to even its own board members. They relented last week amid pressure from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and distributed it to members.
Carpenter first said Tuesday that he has seen the contract and the language has been revised to “defuse the nuclear bomb.” He added that the contract language is still being tweaked, saying he was receiving emails with revisions as late as 8 p.m. Monday. He said he hasn’t had time to fully review the language ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
He later clarified that he believes the agency is working to protect taxpayers but he hasn’t had a chance to read the language closely. He declined to discuss specifics of the language, saying WEDC CEO Mark Hogan told him the deal was confidential.
Still later in the day he issued a news release saying, “I have not had the opportunity to read and make an informed decision on Foxconn to see if it definitely protects taxpayers.”
Assembly Speaker Vos told reporters Tuesday that negotiations with Foxconn continued over the weekend, delaying the release of the contract language to board members until Monday. Vos said WEDC was “fighting for the taxpayers until the very last minute,” and he trusted the board would get the best deal possible without releasing the contract language to the public before the vote.
“I’m optimistic when they vote, they will use their discretion and their best judgment to make sure we have a good deal for the taxpayers,” Vos said.
WEDC officials plan to release the contract after Foxconn executives and Walker sign it, something Walker said should happen by the end of the week.
Democratic state Rep. Dana Wachs, a candidate for governor and member of the WEDC board, said he was still reading the entire contract but he remained opposed to the project. He said $3 billion for one company is too much.
Wachs said he was prohibited to discuss details of the contract due to a confidentiality agreement.
Foxconn is looking to build a massive flat-screen plant in Mount Pleasant. The state incentives are contingent upon Foxconn investing $10 billion and hiring 13,000 people to work at the facility.
Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed to this report.
Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1