Among the vast field of Democrats seeking to unseat Republican Gov. Scott Walker in November, there is much agreement. But on the issue of the state's contract with Foxconn, some daylight is beginning to emerge between candidates.
"To be quite frank, it is highly unlikely that Foxconn will adhere to this contract. It’s possible but it’s unlikely. We’re going to monitor that contract very closely. If they breach it we are going to sue them," said state Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, in an interview earlier this month. "When they break this contract, we will find a way to end it."
Wachs is one of only a few Democrats in the field to suggest the state would find a way out of the contract if elected governor — but none of them are singing its praises.
The state representative called it "the worst economic deal that has ever happened in our state."
In an interview late last year, Milwaukee attorney Matt Flynn said he will end the deal "no matter what," adding that he would enter litigation to break the contract if necessary.
At a WisPolitics event earlier this month, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin raised the possibility of ending the deal, but didn't say he would do it.
Soglin argued that Walker, by rejecting a high speed rail line between Madison and Milwaukee shortly after he was first elected, has opened the door for a future governor to back out of the Foxconn deal. However, Soglin said, he would rather renegotiate the contract than end it completely.
"If I have the opportunity, I will sit down with Foxconn and we will renegotiate and bring the agreement to scale," Soglin said.
Former state Rep. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, offered a similar assessment during a candidate forum last month, pledging to try to roll back some of the "most horrific" provisions of the deal, but arguing it probably could not be stopped completely.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said in a TV interview last weekend that while he doesn't like the $3 billion deal, he doesn't see a way out — so as governor, he'd focus on holding the Taiwanese electronics company's "feet to the fire." Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik said last month he would try to make the deal "less bad."
Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, has taken an approach similar to Evers and Gronik. While arguing the deal is a bad one, Mitchell said last month that it's already done, and elected officials "have to do what we can to ensure that Foxconn is transparent and accountable to the taxpayer."
Political activist Mike McCabe and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, have both issued strong criticisms of the deal, but have not said whether they would seek to undo it.
Foxconn has promised to invest $10 billion to build an LCD panel manufacturing plant in southeastern Wisconsin that will create between 3,000 and 13,000 jobs. In exchange, the state will offer about $3 billion in refundable tax credits — the largest subsidy to a foreign company in U.S. history — delivered on a "pay as you grow" basis tied to job creation and capital investment benchmarks. If the company fails to meet certain benchmarks, benefits may be clawed back.
In addition to offering tax credits, Wisconsin has also agreed to relax some environmental regulations and change the process for legal appeals for the company. The state is expected to break even on the deal in 2043, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
Walker has said the deal will be "transformational" for the entire state. When he signed the legislation last fall, he named it as one of his proudest accomplishments in office.