Wisconsin Senate leader says Foxconn votes may be lacking

The Assembly Committee on Jobs and Economy meets about the incentive deal for Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis. The company last week that it planned to construct the first liquid crystal display panel factory outside of Asia in southeast Wisconsin. The deal requires the state to approve $3 billion in tax breaks tied to Foxconn hiring and spending as promised. (Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)

MADISON, Wis. — The leader of the Wisconsin Senate said Wednesday he doesn't know if he has the votes to pass a package of incentives for a Foxconn plant in the southeastern corner of the state, raising doubts about whether legislators will be able to meet a deadline for finalizing the deal.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald expressed concerns about some specifics of the deal with the Taiwanese electronics giant, which could decide to go elsewhere for its first U.S. factory if the $3 billion package isn't approved by Sept. 30.

The Republican leader said he wants to know more about how bonding for interstate reconstruction near the plant's site will affect a $1 billion shortfall in the state's transportation fund. He also expressed concern about a fiscal analysis that found the state won't break even on the incentives package for at least 25 years.

"I just want to be able to talk intelligently about this thing and I'll be honest with you, I can't do that right now," Fitzgerald said during an interview with WISN-AM radio Wednesday afternoon. "We're just trying to make sure all our ducks are in a row."

Despite Fitzgerald's concerns, Assembly Republicans planned to take the first votes on the package next week, with a committee vote set for Tuesday and a full floor session scheduled for Aug. 17. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos tweeted he wants the Legislature to pass the plan by Labor Day.

Fitzgerald accused Vos of drafting amendments to the plan without consulting the Senate, further complicating matters. He said he plans to send the bill to the Legislature's budget-writing committee but wants the panel to finish work on the state budget before it takes up the Foxconn bill.

"The interaction between the two documents has become very, very intertwined over the last few weeks," he said.

Asked for comment on Fitzgerald's remarks, Gov. Scott Walker's spokesman Tom Evenson replied that the governor is ready to work with both houses to bring more jobs to the state.

There was no immediate response to a message The Associated Press left in Foxconn's general email box Wednesday afternoon.

President Donald Trump announced last month that Foxconn would build a 20 million-square-foot plant in Wisconsin. The company has said the facility could employ as many as 13,000 people.

Walker, who faces re-election next year, signed a memorandum of understanding with Foxconn promising to deliver the incentive package by Sept. 30.

In addition to the road borrowing, the package would provide up to $3 billion in tax breaks for the company depending on how many jobs are created.

It also exempts the plant from a number of environmental regulations, lifting the requirement for environmental impact statements on construction and operations and making it easier to fill wetlands around the plant site.

Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp, a Walker appointee, told the agency's board in Milwaukee that the Foxconn plant is a "gift" and promised regulatory rollbacks in the incentive bill wouldn't lead to environmental damage.

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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