People who oppose the state's proposed deal with Taiwanese electronics company Foxconn will come around once it yields results, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday.
Walker was asked by reporters about new polls conducted in four state Senate districts over the weekend that show, on average, 55 percent of voters in the districts disapprove of the proposed Foxconn deal. The polls were conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by the River Alliance of Wisconsin, which opposes the deal.
The governor likened opposition to the deal to the opposition shown when he introduced Act 10, his signature legislation that effectively eliminated collective bargaining for most public employees. Public opinion will shift when people see the results, he said.
"I think actions speak louder than words, and once ground is broken and we’re going forward with this and they realize there’s a sound plan not only to build family-supporting jobs but there’s a sound plan to continue to protect the environment, I think there will be support as there has been for other things we’ve done in the past," Walker said.
The polls surveyed between 600 and 800 voters each in four Republican-represented Senate districts: the 17th, represented by Sen. Howard Marklein of Spring Green; the 23rd, represented by Sen. Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls; the 24th, represented by Sen. Patrick Testin of Stevens Point; and the 29th, represented by Sen. Jerry Petrowski of Marathon.
The margin was tightest in Petrowski's district, where 50 percent said they disapprove of the deal and 42 percent said they support it. Just more than half of those polled in his district said they approve of the job Walker is doing and voted for Republican Donald Trump for president.
It was widest in Moulton's district, where 59 percent said they oppose the deal, compared to 29 percent who approve of it. Forty-two percent said they had voted for Trump for president, and 43 percent said they approve of Walker's job performance.
Aides to the four senators whose districts were polled did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The poll presented the Foxconn deal this way: "Wisconsin legislators have promised Foxconn, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, $3 Billion in subsidies and exemption from various environmental protections to locate facilities in southeastern WI. Given what you know, do you approve or disapprove of the proposal offered to Foxconn to locate facilities in southeastern Wisconsin?"
Under the proposal, Foxconn would be eligible for up to $1.5 billion in credits for $9.5 billion of payroll expenditures over a 16-year period, and $1.35 billion in credits for $10.7 billion of capital expenditures over a five-year period. The company would also be eligible for a sales and use tax exemption on building materials, supplies and equipment used for construction of the facility, amounting to about $139 million.
The bill includes a provision that would encourage Foxconn to hire Wisconsin residents to fill the 3,000 to 13,000 jobs it has pledged to create. It would also set aside $20 million under the state Department of Workforce Development for a worker training and employment program.
The project would be exempted from state wetlands regulations and from preparing an environmental impact statement required by the state for some other projects. If wetlands are destroyed, mitigation efforts would be encouraged to take place within the same watershed.
Lawmakers in the state Assembly voted last week to approve the deal in a bipartisan 59-30 vote. The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee will hear from members of the public on Tuesday in a public hearing in Sturtevant.
Walker said he thinks the bill will be approved by the Senate within the next week-and-a-half.
Some who oppose the deal — and even a few lawmakers who support it — have raised concerns about the environmental exemptions, which Walker said Tuesday was a result of "hype and hysteria."
Walker said he still hopes the proposal will earn bipartisan support in the Senate. In the Assembly, just three Democrats — all from southeastern Wisconsin, where the facility is likely to be located — voted for the bill, while two Republicans voted against it.
"I want to particularly thank (Assembly Minority Leader) Peter Barca for his leadership on this," Walker said, going on to praise Rep. Cory Mason for his comments in support of the deal.
Barca's work on the bill has frustrated at least one member of his caucus. Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, sent an email to Assembly Democrats accusing Barca of failing "on all accounts" by voting for the bill and publicly supporting it, the Associated Press reported on Monday.