We know who is not the pro-business candidate for governor. That is the governor mentioned by M.D. Kittle in February:
Tech titan Intel Corp. chose Ohio over Wisconsin as the future home of its $20 billion semiconductor manufacturing complex —an economic boon for the Buckeye State that Intel promises will bring thousands of high-paying jobs.
Does Wisconsin’s big loss have something to do with its big government governor? In his three-plus years in office, Gov. Tony Evers is as advertised: an anti-business, tax-and-spend liberal who broke Wisconsin’s biggest economic development contract to score political points.
“One of his (Gov. Evers) first orders of business was taking down all of the ‘Open for Business” signs around the state,” a legislative aid for Republican leadership said, referring to Evers’ decision to remove the signs his predecessor, Republican Gov. Scott Walker had placed at Wisconsin’s state lines. Instead, Evers put up signs bearing his name.
He’s clobbered business early and often.
Despite unprecedented state surpluses, Evers has proposed more than $2 billion in tax hikes in his two biennial budget plans. He wanted to gut the popular manufacturing and agriculture tax credit that economic experts say has been a game-changer in job creation. Intel certainly would have been a leading recipient of the credits.
Scott Manley, executive vice president for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, said Evers’ attack on manufacturers must raise red flags with companies like Intel.
“Instead of looking at a very low tax liability under the manufacturing and ag tax credit, you have a governor who wants to eliminate that tax credit and boost us up to one of the highest tax rates in the country,” Manley said. “That doesn’t help when you’re making a 30-, 40-year investment in a place. You’re definitely looking at taxes over the long term. Right now we have a governor who says, we want to tax you to the max.”
At the outset of the pandemic in 2020, Evers locked down much of the state, ordering thousands of businesses closed and sending hundreds of thousands of workers to the unemployment line. His administration then extended the stay-at-home order even as businesses pleaded that they were on the brink of permanently closing. When employers asked him to do the one thing in his power to ease a worker shortage crisis, he refused. Then he vetoed a bill that would have ended federal subsidies that kept unemployed workers out of the workforce.
Wisconsin reportedly was a front-runner for the Intel project, The planned complex is expected to cover nearly 1,000 acres and employ 3,000 workers on average earning $135,000 a year. Intel is looking at a total long-term investment of $100 billion, with thousands more jobs.
According to Biz Times, Wisconsin offered 471 acres of land owned by the village of Mount Pleasant, next to Foxconn, and an additional 400 acres of privately-owned land.
But Ohio was the “entire package,” Intel’s Keyvan Esfanjani said.
“Ohio comes to the top, the talent pool, the infrastructure, the regulatory environment and the team,” Esfanjani told Statehouse News Bureau.
Sources say Intel was impressed with what Mount Pleasant-area officials had to offer.
“I think all the representatives from the Mount Pleasant area worked so hard to create a great environment,” said state Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine). “I think we did everything we could to show them” the area was a “good fit.”
Intel was less than impressed with Evers and his economic development team, sources tell Empower Wisconsin.
Economic development officials and community leaders have complained about the lack of communication and urgency in the administration and Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Biz Times reported Evers’ team offered an incentive package that was “in accordance with Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation guidelines.” Biz Times Editor Andrew Weiland estimated the package at approximately $2.2 billion, based on a $20 billion capital investment.
But there seemed to be a communication breakdown in between.
“It seems to me we would have heard a little more out of the governor’s office,” Wanggaard said. “I don’t know if they were excited about bringing this type of business to the Foxconn area because that would give you-know-who (former President Trump, a Republican) a win.”
Trump was a big player and an even bigger cheerleader for the Foxconn deal in Racine County.
Wanggaard said he hopes Evers, a Democrat, and his team kept politics out of negotiations.
Evers seemed to make clear he wasn’t going to do a Foxconn-style deal. Of course not. Evers campaigned against the economic development deal former Gov. Scott Walker helped broker with the technology giant. In fact, Evers’ first campaign ad in his 2018 race against Walker attacked the Foxconn deal.
That project has yet to pan out the way its proponents have hoped. Foxconn originally had planned a $10 billion campus employing as many as 13,000 people in the production of advanced liquid crystal display panels. The state incentives package was worth $2.85 billion. While Evers and critics of the deal claim Foxconn has taken Wisconsin taxpayers for a ride, the company only received tax credits based on the jobs it created and the capital it invested.
Foxconn Technology Group recently qualified for tax credits for the first time. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. verified the company had created 579 jobs and had made a capital investment of $266 million at its Mount Pleasant complex. Foxconn qualified for $2.2 million in job creation tax credit and more than $26 million in capital investment tax credits.
Despite the contract stipulations, Evers effectively tore up the agreement and renegotiated a new contract with Foxconn.
“When I ran to be governor, I made a promise to work with Foxconn to cut a better deal for our state—the last deal didn’t work for Wisconsin, and that doesn’t work for me,” Evers said in a press release at the time. “Today I’m delivering on that promise with an agreement that treats Foxconn like any other business…”
In changing the terms, Evers told Foxconn and the world that Wisconsin state contracts are no good, Manley said. That has a chilling effect on business development.
“Businesses are going to be very hesitant to make very large investments in a state where the current governor is unwilling to honor the agreement made by the prior governor,” Manley said. “If you want to be serious about attracting investment in the state, you have to be willing to honor your word.
“Evers campaigned on the idea that he was going to essentially tear up the Foxconn agreement. That has real-world consequences.”
The governor’s anti-business practices haven’t gone unnoticed.
Wisconsin last year dropped seven spots to 22nd in Chief Executive magazine’s annual Best & Worst States For Business rankings. The Badger State has fallen eight spots since Evers has been in office. Chief Executive each March hundreds of CEOs of U.S. companies.
Under Walker, Wisconsin rose from 41st in the ranking in 2010, the year before Walker took office, to No. 10 in 2017.
“Businesses need certainty, they need the rule of law. They need contracts to be honored,” WMC’s Manley said, adding that states that break deals get a “bad reputation” among site locators and businesses poised to relocate or expand.
But is the pro-business candidate the business owner, or not?
Several top Republican donors and business leaders, including retired Bradley Foundation President Mike Grebe and major GOP donor/businessman Fred Young, are challenging the national Club for Growth for its deceptive ad against Rebecca Kleefisch, saying that Tim Michels lacks Kleefisch’s “unwavering conviction” to conservative principles.
The donors noted: “Here are the facts: Tim Michels has a detailed history of supporting questionable economic policies with his company. Michels led or was a member of three different organizations which tried to raise Wisconsin’s gas tax. Michels was president of a group that lobbied against a bill banning illegal immigrants from working on projects paid by taxpayer-funded contracts. Furthermore, Michels Corporation was part of a group whose sole focus was opposing right to work and prevailing wage repeal. His company even fired an employee for refusing to pay union dues. These are not the free-market, competition-driven principles that The Club for Growth has historically championed.”
[Note: Wisconsin Right Now was the first in Wisconsin media to break the story that Michels Corp fired an employee for refusing to pay union dues. We were also the first to break the stories on the organizations/gas tax issue and the illegal immigrant bill.]
It’s impossible to trace who is funding the national Club for Growth ads (although a source close to conservative donor Richard Uihlen says he’s not funding them). They’re clearly designed to destroy Kleefisch in the Aug. 9 gubernatorial primary.
Michels is the other leading contender. Wispolitics is reporting that the Club for Growth made a $1.3 million ad buy in the race. Their first ad attacked Kleefisch for her work on a women’s suffrage group; her work making trade job videos for a group that pushed Walker’s reforms; and her overseas trade missions to find new markets for Wisconsin farmers.
Here is the donors’ letter in full:
“Dear Club for Growth Leadership,
As you may be aware, we represent a collection of Wisconsin supporters and financial backers to The Club for Growth. We have supported The Club because of its strong stance on the principles of freedom, lower taxes, reducing government waste, regulatory reform, and expanding school choice. We’ve been proud of the efforts by The Club to elect conservative candidates across the nation who share these principles. That is, until now.
To say we are deeply concerned and disappointed in The Club’s decision to launch negative and false attacks ads against former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch would be an understatement. It’s also a decision that has led us to question whether to provide any future support. Under the administration of Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch, Wisconsin led the nation in conservative reforms and experienced one of the most prosperous eras in our state’s history.
Rebecca Kleefisch not only exemplifies these conservative principles, she is the only candidate for governor who has never wavered in her conviction and defense of the principles even when faced with the strongest of opposition. To suggest that former Lt. Governor Kleefisch is anything other than a proven conservative reformer is not only a lie, but a disservice to Wisconsin’s conservative movement as a whole. This is why we are so surprised by The Club’s decision to attack Rebecca. Based on various conversations we have had with The Club, it is our understanding the organization is acutely aware, and previously never in question, of Rebecca’s conservative credentials.
Furthermore, it has become increasingly evident throughout this campaign that her opponent Tim Michels does not have the same breadth of experience and unwavering conviction to these conservative principles. Repeated gaffes by the Michels campaign have also demonstrated it lacks the competency and talent demanded to win a competitive statewide race in Wisconsin.
Without doubt, Michels’ campaign is in need of outside help. Sadly, however, it appears The Club for Growth has cast aside its proud record of adherence to conservative ideals and integrity in an attempt to save Michels’ campaign by tearing down Rebecca Kleefisch.
Here are the facts: Tim Michels has a detailed history of supporting questionable economic policies with his company. Michels led or was a member of three different organizations which tried to raise Wisconsin’s gas tax. Michels was president of a group that lobbied against a bill banning illegal immigrants from working on projects paid by taxpayer-funded contracts. Furthermore, Michels Corporation was part of a group whose sole focus was opposing right to work and prevailing wage repeal. His company even fired an employee for refusing to pay union dues. These are not the free-market, competition-driven principles that The Club for Growth has historically championed.
In contrast, Rebecca Kleefisch has never backed down from these principles. Protesters swarmed the Capitol to try and stop Rebecca and Governor Scott Walker from enacting reform to balance the budget, but Rebecca didn’t waver. She didn’t back down when roadbuilders ran ads trying to scare the Walker/Kleefisch administration into raising the gas tax. She stood on principle. When protesters again showed up at the State Capitol to protest right to work legislation, Rebecca Kleefisch proudly stood alongside Scott Walker when he signed the worker freedom bill into law.
To us, there is no question about who conservatives should vote for on Tuesday, August 9th — and that’s Rebecca Kleefisch. We cannot risk voting for a gubernatorial candidate who won’t even commit in writing to vetoing any net tax increases or forced unionization policies.”