Foxconn after 4 Years: Wisconsin lawmakers refuse to admit their political ambitions hurt state’s economy
November 10 was the fourth anniversary of former Governor Scott Walker signing his disastrous deal with tech giant Foxconn.
Earlier this year, Governor Tony Evers finally finished cleaning up the massive economic mess left by the Walker-Kleefisch administration, by announcing a renegotiated deal with the company, saving $2.77 billion in taxpayer dollars, and undoing some of the damage caused by the original agreement.
“Rebecca Kleefisch and Scott Walker negotiated a horrendous deal for Wisconsin taxpayers, then lied to them about the cost. They failed on this deal, and they failed the people of Wisconsin,” said Kayla Anderson, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Rapid Response Director. “Governor Evers understands the importance of protecting taxpayer dollars and supporting Wisconsin’s economic development. That’s why he renegotiated the Foxconn deal to save taxpayer dollars, while still bringing jobs to Wisconsin and protecting existing local investments in the project. Kleefisch’s radical agenda for our economy would hurt Wisconsinites — the last thing our state needs as it bounces back from the pandemic.”
When it was signed by the Walker administration, the Foxconn deal was “the largest government handout to a foreign company ever given in America.” The ridiculously expensive project, which the Republican administration said would cost $3 billion, alarmed experts across the political spectrum, who did not think the state would be able to recoup its investment.
Kleefisch played a key role in negotiations, and called the deal “transformational.” Yet Walker-and his administration failed to deliver on its promises, which proved disastrous for Wisconsin taxpayers.
The with the assistance of Kleefisch, the Walker administration misled the public about the price of the deal. While they initially said the deal would cost $3 billion, a nonpartisan analysis found months later that the Foxconn plant would actually cost the public up to $4.5 billion, nearly 50 percent more than the original figure. Even by conservative estimates, the project was projected to cost $1,774 per household in Wisconsin.
The manufacturing campus was never built, as obligated by contract, even though localities spent millions on land for the project. Three years after the deal was struck, the promised 20-million-square-foot manufacturing campus never materialized, but state and local governments had spent as much as $400 million on the project, “largely on land and infrastructure Foxconn will likely never need.”
Most significantly, Foxconn fell dramatically far short of its jobs creation promises. Under the deal, the company’s goal was to have 2,080 full-time jobs by the end of 2019. But even after it engaged in last-minute hiring gimmicks, Foxconn only hired 281 people eligible for tax credits.
The deal was widely regarded as a political stunt engineered to help Walker get re-elected. Not only did that backfire but it also hindered economic growth across the state. A 2020 study by the Mercatus Center, a free market think tank funded by the Koch brothers, found that the Foxconn deal would be bad for economic growth. The study concluded that if the state paid the company the heavy government subsidies it agreed upon, it would come at a cost of $20 billion in growth in Wisconsin.
The deal by state Republicans wasted millions in taxpayer dollars. Although Wisconsin has not yet given Foxconn any tax subsidies, a state estimate showed Walker and Kleefisch’s Foxconn project has already cost Wisconsin taxpayers nearly $400 million.
Additionally, the Walker administration redirected $90 million in local road funding to Foxconn projects. While roads across Wisconsin were in desperate need of repair, the Walker administration redirected up to $90 million in local road funding from across the state toward projects related to Foxconn.