Assembly Republicans say the prospect of iPhone maker Foxconn bringing as many as 10,000 jobs to Wisconsin is among the issues in the state’s current budget standoff — which could affect funding for a freeway project south of Milwaukee, where the company reportedly is eyeing building sites.
Assembly GOP leaders, in a memo made public Wednesday, also urge business groups to offer their own ideas to resolve the impasse over the state’s next transportation budget.
In a section of the memo called “Effect of Delays on Economic Development,” Assembly Republicans say “Foxconn has indicated its desire to locate in southeastern Wisconsin with up to 10,000 jobs.”
That marks the first time high-level state officials have publicly acknowledged the possibility of Foxconn, a Taiwanese iPhone maker, locating in the state.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reported that Foxconn has inquired about building sites in Pleasant Prairie. The partially completed Interstate 94 North-South project runs through that area, running from the Illinois state line to the Milwaukee area.
Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal would provide $31 million for the project in the next two years, far less than the nearly $270 million that would be needed to keep the project on its current construction schedule.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said in a brief interview Wednesday that he has not talked directly to Foxconn officials. But Vos said “there are economic development programs all over the state. The one that everybody seems to say has the most potential, that the president mentioned, is this ‘Foxconn.’”
President Donald Trump, in a public visit to the Milwaukee area last month, said “just backstage we were negotiating with a major, major incredible manufacturer of phones and computers and televisions, and I think they’re going to give (Gov. Scott Walker) a very happy surprise.”
Vos said: “They (Foxconn) are going to want good access to three things: a favorable tax climate, good workers and a good transportation system.”
“The one thing that’s lagging in the three legs of the stool is finding a way to sufficiently fund our transportation system,” Vos said.
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The company has discussed spending up to $10 billion in the United States to build iPhones and televisions. Wisconsin and other Midwestern states are under consideration for the location.
The offices of Walker and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, did not immediately respond to requests for comment late Wednesday.
Seeking new ideas
Assembly Republicans last week, in an effort to resolve the state budget impasse, floated the idea of collecting a new fee on heavy trucks in Wisconsin. But a group of conservative state senators and industry groups, including the state business lobby, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, dubbed that idea a nonstarter.
Wednesday’s memo from Assembly Republicans urges those groups to offer their own proposals to fund state road projects. Disagreement among statehouse Republicans on that issue is central to the budget debate, causing lawmakers last week to blow past a July 1 deadline to enact a new budget.
Vos said Assembly GOP leaders feel like they’ve been negotiating with themselves instead of with Senate leaders and Walker.
“To our colleagues in the Senate: I’m done putting out ideas for you to reject. So how about if you come up with some ideas and we’ll take a look at those?” Vos said.
WMC said Wednesday it welcomes Assembly Republicans’ offer. The group also said, “WMC is pleased that the punitive tax on heavy trucks appears to be dead.”
“Any discussion of revenue increases must include meaningful reforms to reduce costs and spend our current resources more wisely,” said Scott Manley, a spokesman for the group.