MOUNT PLEASANT — After the results of the November election, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he reached out to officials at Foxconn “to make sure they knew regardless of who occupies the east wing of the state Capitol, Foxconn is going to have allies in the Assembly and hopefully in both chambers and both houses.”
With Democrat Tony Evers preparing to move into the governor’s mansion in January, the new head of the state government will have to oversee the largest business development in state history.
The Foxconn Technology Group development in Mount Pleasant started under Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who was narrowly defeated by Evers in the Nov. 6 election.
Vos’s comments were made at a Monday legislative breakfast event at Meadowbrook Country Club sponsored by Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce (RAMAC) that brought together Vos; state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine; state Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine; and state Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha. State Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Somers, was invited but did not attend.
MOUNT PLEASANT — On the eve of an extraordinary special session in the state Legislature, state Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, compared the session set to start today to a shotgun wedding and asked Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, to delay it.
Vos said the deal with Foxconn is set but he has some concerns regarding Josh Kaul, the Democratic attorney general-elect.
Specifically, Vos is concerned about a lawsuit some environmental organizations have brought against the state regarding Foxconn’s potential water usage and an alleged violation of the Great Lakes Water Compact.
“I am pessimistic, knowing (Kaul’s) background, that he is not going to be on the side of allowing this water diversion to happen, which we all know is going to result in less water being used at Foxconn than Racine used in 1990,” Vos said. “That is one of the few things that can derail the Foxconn project, if a bad decision is made by a new attorney general. Which is one of the reasons why this special session is so important.”
Vos was referring to the special legislative session Gov. Walker has called for this week, a move Democrats have said is an attempt to weaken Evers and Kaul’s powers before they even take office in January.
Confident Evers will uphold deal
Barca said he believes that Evers will meet with Foxconn officials and will be watchful over the project, but does not believe Evers will try to stop the project.
“He’s been very positive overall about the deal,” Barca said. “I’m very optimistic that this will proceed as it should.”
With Foxconn investing in various other parts of the state, along with forming partnerships with different stakeholders like the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and UW-Parkside, Barca said he has been impressed with what the company has done thus far.
“It has actually exceeded my expectations,” said Barca, whose district includes the southeast corner of Racine County.
The $2.85 billion legislative tax incentive package, passed in 2017, received unanimous Republican support and support from Democrats in the Racine and Kenosha area.
Wanggaard thanked Barca for his “courageous” vote.
“He took a courageous vote in his house and lost his leadership position because of that vote,” Wanggaard said, referring to Barca’s ouster as Assembly minority leader.
Wanggaard said Foxconn is going to spur a lot of additional development in the area, which will be good for the state in general.
“Foxconn is just a nucleus,” Wanggaard said. “It’s all of the other economic development that’s occurring as a result of that and the policies that have been put forth by this (Walker’s) administration and by the local officials that are here.”
An open mind, with a watchful eye
Neubauer agreed with Barca that Evers will likely not interfere much with the project.
“I believe it is his responsibility as the governor to sit down and to meet with Foxconn to make sure we are continuously working closely with them,” Neubauer said. “I do believe that Foxconn has made some really strong indications that they are here for the long term.”
Although she had an issue with how the state formed the deal with Foxconn, Neubauer said elected officials need to be mindful of Lake Michigan and the natural resources in the state when considering business developments.
“We have an incredible resource here that we do need to protect,” Neubauer said. “I think it’s our responsibility to make sure we are bringing responsible development to the area. I really think Foxconn has made very strong indications that they want to work closely with us as a city and as a county.”