Madison mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Soglin on Tuesday decried Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to save 600 Wisconsin jobs as “primitive economics” that “is undermining every honest business in this state.”
Walker on Monday offered a tax incentive to keep two Kimberly-Clark factories open in Neenah and Fox Crossing based on the same deal the state offered Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn to build a $10 billion factory in Racine County, a deal that will cost more than $200,000 per job.
Soglin said the money the state is spending on Foxconn would be better spent on regional business accelerators, food hubs to boost local agriculture and broadband Internet expansion.
“When you’ve got a state government that’s been asleep for six or seven years, suddenly they’re confronted with these challenges of building an economy and unfortunately in some instances it’s too late,” Soglin said. “What we’re seeing here is an effort to buy our way out of the problem.”
Madison has some experience with losing a major manufacturing employer — Kraft Heinz announced it was closing the city’s century-old Oscar Mayer plant in 2015. But Soglin noted a year after the factory closed, the city’s unemployment rate is still low at 2.3 percent, which he credited to efforts to diversify the city’s economy going back to the 1970s.
Soglin blasted Walker and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. in 2016 for not doing more to reach out to Kraft Heinz to save the Oscar Mayer plant. On Tuesday Soglin said he wouldn’t have offered $200,000 per job to save Oscar Mayer, and that an incentive of $6,000 to $10,000 per job was more reasonable.
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“If some business in Madison comes to us and says we want $100,000, $150,000, $200,000, which is now the bar that’s been set by the state government … we are simply going to have to tell them ‘no mas,’ ” Soglin said, using the Spanish words for ‘no more.’ “We will not be a party to a state government that is persistent in mortgaging future generations.”
Soglin defended addressing a prominent campaign issue from the pulpit of his City Hall office.
“I’m not going to be silenced as the mayor of this community by his trashing Madison or myself,” Soglin said. “And I’m certainly, when he undermines our economy, going to speak up.”
A Walker campaign spokesman referred comment to the state Republican Party.
“While Governor Walker has implemented concrete reforms that have resulted in substantial job growth, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has nothing serious to offer and once again demonstrates that he is wildly out of touch with the rest of Wisconsin,” GOP spokesman Alec Zimmerman said.