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Racine County welcomes Foxconn

A sign welcoming Foxconn to Racine County and the Village of Mount Pleasant is displayed on a screen at the SC Johnson iMET Center, 2320 Renaissance Blvd., on Oct. 4. The local development agreement between Racine County and Mount Pleasant and the Taiwanese manufacturing giant was made public Monday.

MADISON — A newly released memo projects the public cost for the planned Foxconn manufacturing project could near $4.5 billion — nearly 50 percent more than the $3 billion cost initially cited by the project’s chief proponent at the state Capitol, Gov. Scott Walker.

The figures were compiled by the Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal bureau in a memo requested, and released Tuesday, by Assembly Democratic leader Gordon Hintz. The individual cost figures are not new, but have not previously been compiled in a single document.

They reflect costs to state government, mostly through tax credits for Foxconn over a 15-year period. They also include costs to local governments near the proposed site of the Foxconn campus in Mount Pleasant.

The breakdown of public costs from the project, according to the memo, is as follows:

State tax credits, $2.85 billion

Local government incentives, $764 million

U.S. Interstate 94 North-South project, $408 million

Utility costs, $140 million

State sales tax exemption, $139 million

Road improvements, $134 million

Worker training, $20 million

Local government grants, $15 million

Walker and Republican lawmakers who helped him pass the incentive package for Foxconn say it will give the state’s economy a transformative boost. The Taiwanese company says it plans a $10 billion liquid-crystal display manufacturing plant that could employ as many as 13,000 people.

Walker’s office noted the public incentives “are tied to job creation and investment, and the local government incentives will be repaid by the taxes Foxconn generates.”

Governor criticizes Democrats

Walker said in a tweet Tuesday that “once upon a time, Democrats claimed to be for good-paying, family-supporting jobs. Now they seem to find new ways to attack them.”

Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said the figures validate Democratic lawmakers’ predictions that the cost of the project to the public would exceed the $3 billion amount originally cited by Walker and his state jobs agency, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Hintz also emphasized that public incentives for the project siphon those dollars away from other parts of the state budget.

“That money is not going to be available for higher education, is not going to be available for K-12 education, is not going to be available for infrastructure,” Hintz said.

I-94 costs

At least one of the figures cited in the memo might have been incurred without the Foxconn project: the Interstate 94 North South project. That project, which will widen and rebuild I-94 from General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee to the Illinois state line, had been on the short list of projects in line for state funding prior to the Foxconn announcement. After the announcement, lawmakers expedited it and included funding for it in the Foxconn legislation.

The local government incentives are tax increment financing incentives to fund the costs of public improvements associated with the Foxconn development, according to the memo. They are structured to be repaid with payments connected to the increased property value generated by the new development.

The utility costs, to build an electricity transmission line to power the Foxconn campus, are to be absorbed by American Transmission Co., not state or local governments. The memo says its “impact on individual rate-payers is not expected to be significant” because the cost will be borne by many consumers during a period of 40 years.

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