The basic numbers on the state’s FoxConn incentives go like this:
The state would give the Taiwanese electronics giant $3 billion in mostly tax credits over 15 years. Besides escaping state income taxes, as most manufacturers in Wisconsin now do, Foxconn would get cash payments from the state treasury even though it didn’t directly pay money in.
In exchange for this unprecedented government subsidy to secure a manufacturer in Wisconsin, FoxConn would agree to hire up to 13,000 people at salaries averaging about $50,000 plus benefits.
The state contribution would cover 17 percent of Foxconn’s payroll at a massive manufacturing campus in southeastern Wisconsin. And if company employees pay around 5 percent of their income in state taxes, that would leave a 12 percent gap the state would need to offset in other ways to break even.
Gov. Scott Walker’s administration insists that difference can be covered — and surpassed — by higher tax collections from the construction of the Foxconn facility and its supply chain.
Yet it’s unclear how many of the businesses serving Foxconn will be located in Wisconsin. The maker of display screens for televisions and other devices would be close to Illinois and metro Chicago if it locates in Racine or Kenosha counties. And Illinois expects some economic benefit will come its way in jobs and suppliers.
Most of the analysis of the state incentive package so far has come from a report commissioned by Foxconn. An independent and nonpartisan analysis by the highly respected state Legislative Fiscal Bureau is expected to be released this week.
“Until you have an analysis from Bob Lang,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said last week of the director of the Fiscal Bureau, “it’s pretty hard to even judge the bill.”
But that hasn’t stopped the governor’s staunchest allies and political foes from weighing in with starkly different assessments that probably would have been made no matter what the deal called for.
The Walker administration suggests luring Foxconn is a “once in a generation” and “transformational” chance to boost the state economy. The governor’s sharpest critics claim the Foxconn agreement is an outrageous giveaway to a foreign corporation.
Reality, no doubt, is somewhere in between.
For the majority of Wisconsin citizens who are more interested in doing what’s best for the state than scoring political points, more information is needed. And that will require more time to discover and digest details. The Legislature absolutely should give the public — and individual lawmakers — more time to consider the facts. This is too important to rush. Wisconsin needs to get this right.
The state Assembly held a public hearing last week on the proposal, hoping to move the deal closer to a vote. But Foxconn officials didn’t attend, and many questions still need answers.
State leaders should enthusiastically welcome Foxconn to Wisconsin — but not at any cost.
Taxpayers should wait for the Fiscal Bureau’s sober analysis — as well as further testimony — before determining if this big opportunity is worth its high cost.