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Does the Foxconn deal guarantee a third term for Gov. Walker?

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From the pages of In Business magazine.

Welcome to "Political Posturing," featuring opposing views on current issues important to Wisconsin's business community. In this column, Wisconsin Business Alliance Board President Brad Werntz and conservative columnist David Blaska offer their opinions from the left and the right, respectively.

Who knows? But the Foxconn deal is beyond bad for Wisconsin.

By Brad Werntz

There are actually three questions here: 1) Is the Foxconn deal good for Wisconsin?; 2) Is it good for Walker?; and, 3) Is there any such thing as a “guarantee” in our current political environment? Let’s take these questions in order, shall we?

First, the 13,000 jobs that Foxconn promises come with risks to the Wisconsin economy. The Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 Outdoor Recreation Economy Report shows that 168,000 jobs in Wisconsin are driven by $17.9 billion in annual consumer spending. We have more ski resorts and miles of snowmobile trails, fresh water, and hunters per capita than most other states. Water is why people come here to play outdoors.

In the water-poor state where I grew up, people fought range wars over what Walker wants to allow Foxconn to do to water in Wisconsin. They will use 486 million gallons of water a month to drive those 13,000 jobs. By comparison, the 1.2 million people in the city of San Jose, California use just 350 million gallons per year. If we really want to call ourselves “Wisconn Valley” we should recognize that San Jose will run out of water before we do, and we want to be the next best place for all of those software engineers to move.

But that’s just the water. The dollars don’t stack up much better. According to Wisconsin’s budget office, we won’t break even on the deal until 2043. We’re spending at minimum $66,000 per job, which comes to $1,200 per household. As Michael J. Hicks, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, says in his article on MarketWatch: “This isn’t simply a bad deal. It is an over-the-top bad deal for Wisconsin.”

Will any of this matter when Walker runs for his third term? Honestly, who knows? The news cycle these days is incredibly short. The election is over a year away, and voters don’t remember much beyond the most current shiny object. If recent elections prove anything, there are no more guarantees in politics.

Brad Werntz is a small business owner in Madison.

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