Editor’s note: The Kenosha News asked candidates for governor in contested races this question and others. Look for their answers today through Thursday.
What is your opinion of the Foxconn deal? How will you promote similar opportunities for growth in the future?
Robert Meyer (R): “Almost every person I met while gathering my nomination signatures agreed that Wisconsin very badly overpaid for the Foxconn jobs. We have the best location by far in the entire country for the Foxconn project, and the incumbent lacks the business experience to have known how to negotiate the agreement from a position of strength. The environmental exemptions can be thought of as part of that over payment, and they are inexcusable.
“The project has substantial job creation potential, but the sad reality is that every taxpayer in the state will be subsidizing the deal for the next 20 years or more before it even breaks even. All future deals with industry must be negotiated responsibly and professionally and with the fiduciary interests of our entire state in mind.”
Gov. Scott Walker (R): “HARIBO, Amazon, Uline, Foxconn — all of these exciting new developments are why southeastern Wisconsin is one of the hottest areas in the country. These are examples of the kind of growth that will come in the future.
“Foxconn is the largest economic development project in state history — $10 billion. Foxconn will create 13,000 good-paying, family-supporting jobs, with an average salary of $53,875 plus benefits. Like other projects in the area, they will receive tax incentives if they earn them based on actual investments and job creation. No jobs and investment; no incentives.
Thankfully, they have already broken ground, made investments and hired staff here in Wisconsin. People will benefit from the construction work, direct employment and indirect employment. Small businesses in the area will benefit from being part of the $1.4 billion Foxconn will spend each year with Wisconsin-based companies.
Most importantly, Foxconn will be one more reason our graduates — from nearby high schools, Gateway, UW-Parkside, and other colleges and universities — will stay in our state.
“A special thank-you to lawmakers from Kenosha County for setting aside partisan politics to vote for the long-term benefits to the region. Thanks to Rep. Peter Barca, Rep. Samantha Kerman, Rep. Tod Ohnstad, Sen. Bob Wirch and Sen. Van Wanggaard. Just as Microsoft helped transform the state of Washington, Foxconn will do the same for Wisconsin.”
Tony Evers (D): “It’s a Hail Mary pass and a bad deal for Wisconsin. I certainly understand that southeast Wisconsin will benefit from this project — but at what cost? The entire project is now slated to cost Wisconsin taxpayers $4.5 billion, and based on the deal Scott Walker negotiated, we’ll be paying Foxconn between $200 million to $400 million every two years. As state superintendent, I’ve proposed four budgets for our public schools and there has never been an extra $200 million to $400 million laying around. This money will have to come from somewhere.
“That being said, the contract has been signed, legislation passed into law and dirt is being moved. As governor, I cannot snap my fingers and terminate this contract, and anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t being honest. I believe we must compel Foxconn to be the best corporate citizen possible. For $4.5 billion in state assistance, these should be family-supporting jobs with good, comprehensive benefits. For $4.5 billion in state tax dollars, they should be providing public transportation for workers from Racine, Kenosha and Milwaukee counties to get to the site. For $4.5 billion, we should be able to compel them to place solar panels on their roofs which could generate electricity for thousands of Wisconsin homes.”
Matt Flynn (D): ”Scott Walker got taken to the cleaners in the Foxconn deal. He does not have the skill or experience to negotiate a $4.5 billion deal.
He repeatedly misled the public about the benefits of the deal, which will be much more limited than he wants us to believe.
There are no guaranteed number of jobs and no guaranteed wage levels. Foxconn is welcome to build its factory in Wisconsin and create jobs here, but not under the terms of Scott Walker’s costly, corrupt and unconstitutional deal.
As governor, I will not allow Foxconn to take our tax dollars or circumvent the laws everyone else has to follow. I am the only candidate in this race that has said he will go to federal court and file a lawsuit to stop the unconstitutional, crooked Foxconn deal.”
Mike McCabe (D): “Showering tax breaks and state subsidies on a privileged few at the top and a handful of giant corporations hasn’t worked and will continue to fail us. By just about every measure imaginable, Wisconsin is lagging economically. Politically manipulating supply from the top down isn’t the answer. Wisconsin needs to do an about-face in the way we go about building a sturdy economy. We need to build it from the bottom up. I call it geyser economics, because economic prosperity doesn’t trickle down, it gushes up.
“The most powerful thing the state can do is stoke demand by putting more money in the pockets of working people.
When workers get a raise, they don’t do what rich people do when given more. They don’t stash it in tax havens in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands. They don’t just pad their net worth with it. They don’t take it out of circulation. They spend it. And when they spend it, someone has to se ll what they want to buy.
That stimulates the economy.
Low wages are a killer for the economy. They suppress demand and inhibit sales. We need to empower working people to do more for themselves and each other.
The other thing the state can do is invest in infrastructure improvements. Transportation infrastructure. Communications infrastructure.
Businesses depend on these infrastructures and can’t build them themselves. It’s something we all need to do together, and it becomes the foundation of a thriving economy.”
Mahlon Mitchell (D): “The Foxconn deal had the potential to be transformative for Wisconsin.
However, as information slowly trickled out, the fine details leave much to be desired. Now that the deal is done, we must hold Foxconn accountable — they must be true corporate partners to the taxpayers.
As they create jobs and hire workers, they must prioritize the Wisconsinites that are footing the bill.
“One of the more egregious aspects of the deal was the DNR approving Foxconn draining 7 million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan.
One of our more valuable commodities here in Wisconsin are our freshwater lakes.
I have serious concerns about the effects that this removal will have on Lake Michigan.
Furthermore, recent estimates suggest it will take until at least 2043 for the state to recoup lost tax revenue.
We have placed the fiscal health of Wisconsin into serious jeopardy in the coming decades. As governor, I would look for opportunities that have a better deal for Wisconsin.
We need a deal to provide family-supporting jobs, that doesn’t negatively impact our environment.
If we have excellent schools, infrastructure and a trained workforce, companies will trip over themselves to come to our state. We need new leadership to get us there.”
Josh Pade (D): “While I disagree with the way the deal was made, Foxconn is an opportunity not only for southeastern Wisconsin, but for Wisconsin. I believe that all corporate investments should be transparent and that we should hold them accountable to continued communication and transparency with our residents. Foxconn will only work if it is part of a statewide economic plan that promotes high-wage jobs, further capital investments, and brings innovations to all our communities.
“I will connect Foxconn investment to a statewide initiative to grow the technology sector, and develop the infrastructure necessary to facilitate the economic development.
We must hold Foxconn accountable to the deal they made and be vigilant to ensure that our environment is protected.
I also believe the state should have consistent standards on economic development so that current companies do not hold communities’ economies hostage for a subsidy.”
Kelda Roys (D): “I’m a small business owner and tech entrepreneur, and I want Wisconsin to be the best place to grow a business.
Any company that follows our laws, treats workers fairly and pays their fair share of taxes is welcome in Wisconsin. Foxconn, however, has a terrible track record on environmental, labor, and legal issues, and as a lawyer, I can say I’ve never seen a more poorly negotiated contract. $4.5 billion is simply too much to pay for Foxconn — my children will be my age before Foxconn could break even.
Foxconn plans to divert 7 million gallons per day from the Great Lakes basin, and it is from basic environmental standards — even from disclosing their environmental impact.
These exemptions from air and water quality laws could harm human health, too.
Homeowners are being forced out of their brand-new dream homes, as local governments abuse their eminent domain power.
There are inadequate safeguards for workers and taxpayers — will these be Wisconsinites making a living wage with benefits? Or Illinois workers or robots?
“Jobs don’t come from race-to-the-bottom corporate welfare doled out by desperate politicians.
Jobs come from increasing wages so working people have more money to spend, and from new small businesses like mine.
As governor, I’ll stop giving billions to foreign corporations and change our ranking as dead last in new business creation.
We’ll invest in Wisconsin’s homegrown innovators, family farmers and small businesses that have a stake in our communities and drive sustainable economic growth for all.”
Paul Soglin (D): “The Foxconn deal is horrible.
I am not opposed to investing public money to attract good jobs, but Gov. Walker got ripped off, and we are paying for it. The Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City has done research on what happens when states hand out massive taxpayer subsidies to corporations, in the case of Foxconn to a foreign corporation.
Instead of spending over $400,000, a figure more like $40,000 or less is appropriate.
The tragedy is, as I predicted at the time of the deal, other corporations are now blackmailing our state for similar gifts.
The secret to success is in a wiser strategy:
Encourage small business development, become more entrepreneurial.
Small businesses create more and better jobs.
Create a trained and intelligent workforce — then the businesses come to you.
Wire the state with high speed internet.
Create the kind of communities where businesses want to locate — great schools, great public transportation systems and great places.”
Kathleen Vinehout (D): “The Foxconn deal was far too generous in giving away state tax dollars.
The contract provisions covering Foxconn commitments were far too vague. The exemptions from judicial practice and environmental standards create an uneven and unfair playing field for businesses long resident in Wisconsin and who support our quality of life.
Economists across the political spectrum say that giving public dollars to individual private companies — choosing winners and losers — is bad public policy and bad economics.
The history of these projects in almost every state includes failed projects and political payoffs.
State government should be in the business of creating an environment that supports all economic activity.
Giving away money to individual companies is not sustainable. How do you choose?
Where do you stop?
When a business is looking for a place to locate, among the first questions asked: Are the schools good, the streets safe, transportation available, the air breathable, the water drinkable, electric rates affordable? Is this a community where my employees will want to live and play, not just work?
Those are the qualities the state should be providing for all businesses.
We should also keep in mind that almost all job growth comes from start-ups and small and medium businesses expanding.
The state can assist in that process by providing expert advice on financing options, production processes and marketing opportunities — in much the same way our University Extension Service has helped farmers over the past 100 years.”