Thursday, August 17, 2017

Foxconn favors are basic to Walker/GOP's sloppy playbook

As Wisconsin Republicans are poised to begin betting a generation's worth of public funding on Foxconn - - a bet that will also roll back state constitutional water rights which predate statehood by centuries - -  don't say they didn't warn you, because they did.

Right-wing GOP WI Gov. Scott Walker and his party's equally-compliant Legislature have since they took power in 2011 repeatedly embraced and telegraphed the fiscally and environmentally-irresponsible elements in the Foxconn subsidy and special-privilege package which Assembly Republicans will pass at Walker's urging today - - despite negative data and incomplete vetting staring them in the face.

*  That the bill is going to pass even before state financial analysts have done the same basic Foxconn research and credit checks that any dealership would perform before financing a used car sale should come as no surprise.

Because the agency Walker and his legislature have handed the task - - the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation - - has earned a partisan and scandalized reputation for gross incompetence over non-existent internal standards and lost or never-created paperwork - - which is still a problem.

*  Also - - the state under Walker, and GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, have shown no hesitation about throwing away public funds by the tens of millions through bad business decisions, so, again, no surprise that they would be eager to commit large sums of taxpayer dollars to Foxconn without a care in the world, or professional vetting that would inform the establishment of reasonable protections for Wisconsin taxpayers.

* Walker and Vos were fine with throwing away $50 million taxpayer dollars  when they broke a contract with Talgo, an Amtrak train assembler located in Milwaukee, which also sacrificed Wisconsin's first-in-line position for train assembly work nationally. 

After having blocked an Amtrak extension from Milwaukee to Madison and walked away from years of high-paying rail-line-installation and train bridge-improvement construction jobs, too.

* Walker and his WEDC also have had their/our pockets picked before by a business willing to play one state against another - - and don't forget that Foxconn is also negotiating with Ohio and Michigan - - so beware of this re-run:

Many of you may not remember an WEDC-led fiasco 
at a business that was supposed to build small airplanes in Superior. 

The scandal took place during Walker's WEDC chairmanship which he abandoned because it was weighing down the smarty-pants business-savvy reputation (based on nothing, really) which he unsuccessfully hawked on the 2015 Presidential campaign trail.

Small-plane manufacturing is a boom-and-bust business because it is highly competitive, dominated by long-standing brands like Cessna, and makes expensive products sensitive to insurance issues and economic downturns.

It's hard to imagine a venture more likely to fail.

Yet there was Walker, pledging big subsidies to the company, including the establishment of a special development zone - - sound familiar, in re: Foxconn? - - with his WEDC promoting the boss by name, and using all the requisite buzzwords - - "aggressive...strong...major...huge boost..."and promising hundreds of jobs: 

Governor Scott Walker today announced that Kestrel Aircraft Corporation will establish its manufacturing and headquarters in Superior, creating up to 600 new jobs.
“I am pleased with the aggressive package we have put forth in conjunction with strong local support to make this major job creation contribution to Superior,” said Governor Walker. “This relocation will be a huge boost to the Superior-area economy."
And what happened?

Kestrel never built a plane in Superior.

It missed WEDC loan repayment deadlines (but, hey, no surprise there), yet took more than $6 million in state and local funds and moved its operation back to Maine from whence it had flown.

Props to the Madison Capital Times' Mike Ivey for having kept such a close eye on that story.

WEDC has provided $4 million in loans to the firm, with the city of Superior contributing another $2.4 million in loans. In addition, Kestrel is certified to receive up to $18 million in enterprise zone tax credits from WEDC, and $30 million in federal New Market Tax Credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA)...
Kestrel has not moved forward on its plans to build two construction plants in Superior, and has fallen behind on loan payments to WEDC, the quasi-private entity formed by Walker to help jump-start the state economy via tax breaks and other business subsidies.
For the record, the company is back in Maine and has another partner now from New Mexico.

And on the environmental waivers Walker and the Assembly are about to grant Foxconn by putting the DNR on the sidelines so wetlands can be filled:

*  Remember Walker, in his first days in office, administratively suspended the DNR's review of a wetland-filling permit for a project near Lambeau Field, then had the Legislature affirm that suspension with a special bill.

That was the precedent-setting water-giveaway template that Walker has expanded over the years for his private sector allies and donors, and which will pave - - literally - - some of Foxconn's construction and operations - - as rules protecting wetlands and shoreline from development and intrusion have been relaxed so the DNR's traditional oversight of public lands and clean water in the public interest could be twisted to fit the ''chamber of commerce mentality' Walker installed atop the agency.

Again, the Walker-led GOP has intentionally targeted the environment, as leading Wisconsin Republican business moderate John Torinus noted several years ago:
...[though] poll after poll for decades has found that some three-quarters of Americans support water and land conservation, the GOP is slashing spending on environmental programs at the state and federal levels...
In Wisconsin, the legislature and Gov. Walker are also greatly reducing spending on preservation programs... Republicans have been harder on environmental programs than any other form of spending.
Somehow, GOP legislators have bought the erroneous theory that the environment and economy are an either-or proposition. Nothing could be more wrong. Advances for the economy and the environment are complementary, not competing.
So the GOP-led Wisconsin Assembly is rushing the Foxconn bill forward today straight through regulatory and due-diligence gaps in smart business and environmental best practices deliberately blown in Wisconsin law and legacy.

Not to mention the legacies of Teddy Roosevelt, Warren Knowles and others.

Principally because having failed in nearly seven years to fulfill the 250,000 new private-sector jobs-pledge he insisted he'd hit after only one, four-year term, Walker needs Foxconn as his 2018-relection campaign theme.

Regardless of the unprecedented financial and environmental public costs.

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