MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Senate approved nearly $3 billion in cash payments for Foxconn Technology Group on Tuesday, while also giving the Taiwanese company a slightly less expedited path to the state Supreme Court for certain legal challenges related to a planned massive electronics manufacturing factory.
Foxconn plans to invest up to $10 billion to build a flat-screen production factory in Wisconsin that would initially employ 3,000 but the company said could grow to 13,000. The proposed subsidy — which now heads to the state Assembly for a final vote Thursday — would be the largest ever from a U.S. state to a foreign company and 10 times bigger than anything Wisconsin has extended to a private business.
The Republican-controlled Senate discounted Democratic concerns that there weren’t enough protections for taxpayers under the unprecedented incentive package. It would take 25 years for taxpayers to see a return on the investment, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said.
“Taxpayers know it’s going to cost them $3 billion but they have no idea what they’re buying,” said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, a Democrat from Middleton, during debate. “There are no guarantees in this legislation and we don’t even know what we’re buying.”
Republican Sen. Alberta Darling, co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee, urged Democrats to get on board with a project she said was both a good deal for taxpayers and would be transformational for the state by making it a leader in the advanced manufacturing world.
“Passing this up would be a huge mistake,” she said.
The Senate passed it on a 20-13 vote with 19 Republicans in support along with Democratic Sen. Bob Wirch, of Pleasant Prairie, which is near where the plant plans to locate. Twelve Democrats and Republican Sen. Rob Cowles, of Allouez, voted against it.
Republicans changed the bill to give the Wisconsin Supreme Court the option to take appeals related to the Foxconn project directly from the circuit court and speed up filing requirements for attorneys. The bill as amended by committee last week required the Supreme Court to take all appeals directly from the circuit court, skipping the state appeals court. Legal experts had questioned the constitutionality of such a move.
Madison attorney Lester Pines said the new approach still raises constitutional questions about separation of powers. The lower court decision would be automatically suspended during the appeal.
It would apply to appeals of circuit…