Tony Evers can’t back GOP plan to fund tax cut; Asked DNR to review Foxconn air permits | Politics and Elections

Gov. Tony Evers is panning an Assembly GOP plan to use state reserves to pay for a middle-class tax cut, even as Republican leaders are putting the plan on a fast track in the Legislature. 

Speaking to reporters Tuesday in Madison, Evers also confirmed he has instructed state environmental officials to review air-quality permits issued to electronics maker Foxconn last year for its planned campus near Racine. Evers said he discussed the topic with Foxconn officials but doesn’t believe the company is concerned by the move.

State Assembly and Senate committees planned to hold public hearings for the tax proposal Tuesday at the state Capitol.  Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said last month that he wants to advance the plan independently from the state budget.

The plan is similar to a middle-class tax cut Evers proposed during the campaign, giving an average income-tax cut of $170 to about 2 million tax filers, most of them middle class.

But it differs from Evers’ in how it is financed. Assembly Republicans want to use one-time state surplus funds to fund it, while Evers wants to pay for it on an ongoing basis by capping a tax break for manufacturers and farmers at $300,000 a year. 

Evers said Tuesday that “I cannot support a plan that has no plan for funding in the future.”

“Our plan is better,” Evers said. “It utilizes circumstances that would allow us to cut those taxes and have that cut be permanent going forward.”

Evers’ comments about the Foxconn air permits clarify what he told reporters Friday — and match what he said during the campaign. 

It comes after Foxconn officials did a highly public back-and-forth last week on its plans to build a $10 billion campus in southeast Wisconsin that the company has said could employ as many as 13,000.

Foxconn officials initially said, in a report published Wednesday, that they no longer were planning to build a factory in Wisconsin. By Friday the company walked that back, signaling they will build a Wisconsin factory — albeit a different one than originally planned — after a conversation between Foxconn CEO Terry Gou and President Donald Trump.

Republican legislative leaders, meanwhile, blamed Evers for the wavering by Foxconn officials. 

Foxconn got the air-quality permits from the state Department of Natural Resources in April. At that time the governor was Scott Walker, chief architect of the state’s $3 billion subsidy package for Foxconn.

Evers said during the campaign that scientists have told him the Foxconn permit-approval process was flawed, though he did not specify what problems occurred with the process. Evers told the Wisconsin State Journal Editorial Board in October that he’d be willing to rescind the permits if additional review found Foxconn not meeting air-quality standards.

Speaking Tuesday, Evers said “clearly that’s one area the people of Wisconsin were concerned about, is air quality.”

He said the review of the air permits was discussed with Foxconn “the very first time we talked to them, we talked about the fact that there may be a review of that.”

Still, Evers insisted Foxconn officials weren’t worried.

“I think Foxconn believes that they’ve done what was asked of them,” Evers said.

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