It is no secret that Scott Walker played the fool in what were generously referred to as “negotiations” with Foxconn, the multinational corporation that reached a sweetheart deal with the former governor in 2017. Walker locked Wisconsin taxpayers into a semi-permanent relationship with a controversial company that has been plagued by news reports about how it has treated workers poorly, harmed the environment, and failed to follow through on agreements.
That was a bad start. Then things got worse. Despite Walker’s cheerleading, a steady stream of leaks and revelations raised questions about the soundness of the deal. And it became abundantly clear, even to those who continued to defend the arrangement, that inflated expectations were being altered and abandoned.
Walker is gone. But his failure continues to haunt Wisconsin.
In part, this is because the former governor did not screw up on his own.
Walker had help from the legislative leaders who were supposed to check and balance the former governor’s rank ineptitude. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a popcorn salesman from western Racine County, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a career politician from rural Dodge County, like to portray themselves as fiscally conservative Republicans. But they gave away the store, gleefully placing their rubber stamps on Walker’s crony capitalist commitment to provide Foxconn with as much as $3 billion in taxpayer-funded subsidies in return for the company’s over-the-top promise to create as many as 13,000 jobs. Estimates of the cost to taxpayers rapidly rose, even as signals regarding actual job creation grew mixed.
Gov. Tony Evers, the man who beat Walker and who now must clean up the messes made by his bumbling predecessor, announced in mid-April that he would work with Foxconn to revise the troubled deal. This was a responsible and necessary move. Yet, in shoot-first, aim-later fashion, Fitzgerald and Vos immediately attacked Evers.
The Senate leader charged that “the governor has wanted to undermine the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. from day one” and claimed ominously that any move to “renege” on Walker’s commitment to Foxconn would cost the state its credibility with corporate interests.
Vos dismissed talk of renegotiation of the bad deal as “naive” and told 1130 WISN radio that Evers was “clearly above his pay grade on some of these decisions.”
“It is beyond my level of understanding to think a governor of the state of Wisconsin is basically rooting for the failure of the largest economic development project in the state’s history,” said Vos, who announced on April 17 that the Foxconn deal was “ironclad.”
The next day, April 18, Foxconn officials let it be known that they were “open to further consultation, collaboration and new ideas” in their deliberations with the Evers administration and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.