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Wisconsin, Foxconn Amend Deal Over Tax Incentive Package

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn has dramatically scaled back its ambitious multibillion-dollar plans to build a factory in Wisconsin. That means it's losing out on one of the largest tax incentive packages ever approved for a private company. Here's Wisconsin Public Radio's Corrinne Hess.

CORRINNE HESS: Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers didn't even hold a press conference yesterday after signing the amended deal with Foxconn. It's a far cry from 2018 when former President Donald Trump hyped the deal and traveled to Wisconsin with a gold shovel and promises of 13,000 new jobs with the arrival of the company.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED REORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: This is, we can say, the eighth wonder of the world. This is the eighth wonder of the world.

HESS: But soon after ground was broken, Foxconn's original plan to build a massive $10 billion flat-screen panel manufacturing facility in a blue-collar corner of the state fell flat itself. The products changed, talk of manufacturing dwindled, and Foxconn blamed market conditions. And while Foxconn's executives joined Trump in 2018 for the big announcement, yesterday, they merely released a statement saying the new contract gave them more clarity. Wisconsin's revised contract with Foxconn gives the company $80 million in tax breaks in exchange for just over 1,400 jobs in 2024. Compare that to the nearly $3 billion deal for 13,000 jobs that were promised in 2017. The revised deal doesn't specify what Foxconn now has to manufacture. These days, the company is eyeing electric cars but says it won't announce a decision on where to build them until July.

But Wisconsin taxpayers are still on the hook. Already, more than a billion dollars has been spent on land acquisition, infrastructure and road improvements for what was to be a massive project. The deal also continues to be a sharply partisan issue. Wisconsin's Democratic minority leader, Gordon Hintz, has been critical of the company since the beginning. He says the revised deal is long overdue.

GORDON HINTZ: The incentive package that they've received is one that other Wisconsin businesses and other companies received - incentivized job creation and capital investment for jobs that hopefully spur other job growth.

HESS: But the state's Republican speaker, Robin Vos, doesn't think a change was necessary.

ROBIN VOS: Foxconn is making concessions because they are having their back up against a wall. Even though they are meeting the goals that were set by the last administration and by the legislation we enacted, the governor doesn't seem to want to keep the state's deal.

HESS: George Mason University researcher Michael Farren studies government subsidies, and he suggests a better way.

MICHAEL FARREN: Investing more in government services or education or - and, quite simply, a tax break so that all corporations and all households enjoy the benefits.

HESS: The revised deal now also reduces Wisconsin's commitment to Foxconn from 15 years down to six years.

For NPR News, I'm Corrinne Hess in Milwaukee.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE WAR ON DRUGS SONG, "KNOCKED DOWN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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