By SCOTT BAUER Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Foxconn Technology Group insists it remains committed to building a $10 billion project in Wisconsin that will employ as many as 13,000 people, adding that it is also looking for “flexibility” in the deal it struck with the state in 2017.
The statement from Foxconn came as Gov. Tony Evers and Republican legislative leaders continued to disagree over the extent to which the company wants to renegotiate its contract calling for a project that could bring Foxconn more than $4 billion worth of tax credits.
Evers portrayed himself as a skeptic of the project when he was campaigning last year against then-Gov. Scott Walker, who made the deal. Evers said last week that the current deal is “no longer in play” because Foxconn is building a smaller display-screen factory than the one envisioned in the contract. Evers also said he doesn’t think Foxconn will employ 13,000 people, a consideration that necessitates changes.
Evers said it was Foxconn, not his administration, that started talks to make “several changes” to the contract. Evers made the statement in a letter he sent on Tuesday to the Foxconn executive Louis Woo.
Foxconn, in a statement late Tuesday night, said the company “has never wavered from our commitment to our contract” and said the talks with Evers were more about providing flexibility within the current agreement.
At the heart of the contract are various state tax credits that the company can claim only if it meets specific hiring and spending goals. Foxconn can earn $1.5 billion worth of tax credits if it hires 13,000 people making an average salary of $53,875 and get an additional $1.35 billion in tax credits if it spends $9 billion on capital investments, primarily building construction and machinery and equipment.
Foxconn described its talks with the Evers administration as “routine engagement and good faith discussions” related to ensuring long-term success. Foxconn said it is working within the terms of its contract with the state and remains open to “further consultation, collaboration, and new ideas.”
Neither Evers nor Foxconn has specified what parts of the deal are open to discussion and which might be changed.
Evers also said that Woo recently met with Republican legislative leaders and told them of Foxconn’s intention to suggest changes to the agreement. Republicans have been highly critical of how Evers has dealt with Foxconn, saying he is “undermining” the state’s deal with the company.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said there was “no discussion” during his meeting with Foxconn’s Woo about reopening the contract. And Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, whose district includes the project, said he’s not interested in making “wholesale changes” to the contract.
“If they come to us and want some minor tweaks, as long as the job goals and taxpayer protections remain, I’m open to listening to their ideas,” Vos said Wednesday.
State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, a Democrat, said he thinks Evers is being more realistic than Republicans about Foxconn “because that was their baby.”