You might not think that the massive Foxconn deal has much of anything to do with bicycling, but there is a link. Read on.
If you’ve been living under a rock or fanatically training for the Ride Across Wisconsin you could be forgiven for not knowing about Foxconn. The company is a giant Chinese manufacturer of flat screens and it promises to locate a big plant in Southeast Wisconsin in exchange for $3 billion in payments from state taxpayers and exemption from a number of environmental regulations.
Most of that $3 billion is actual direct cash payments to the company from Wisconsin taxpayers. It would cost a family of four, on average, about $140 a year for the next 15 years.
So, here’s the connection: for roughly the same cost to taxpayers we could lay a good foundation for fixing our roads. And we’d create a lot more jobs.
Four years ago a special task force recommended a program of investing in transportation that would cost the average driver about $120 a year. For that investment we’d not only get those potholes filled, but we could rebuild streets right so that potholes didn’t happen. We could pave shoulders on rural roads. We could provide more separated bike lanes that benefit both cyclists and drivers.
And here’s a bonus. At its rosiest projection and counting all the direct jobs, construction jobs and jobs induced by the project, Foxconn would produce about 50,000 jobs. But for that same $3 billion investment in roads and other transportation needs, we could produce about 84,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Better yet, those jobs would be produced all over the state, wherever a road needed fixing. The Foxconn jobs will be isolated to Southeast Wisconsin and Northeast Illinois.
To add insult to injury Illinois residents will reap the benefits while not having to shoulder the costs of the big Foxconn taxpayer subsidy. You could say the same thing about road building, except that road improvements will make it easier for Flatlanders to come here and spend their money. The Foxconn deal will make it easier for them to take jobs we subsidize to the tune of $230,000 to $1 million per job.
And here is the final irony. The state budget is going on two months overdue primarily because Gov. Scott Walker refuses to back new transportation taxes that would cost the average driver maybe $120 a year. But now he’s pushing hard for a project that will cost taxpayers roughly the same amount of money, only with benefits far below what a sound transportation budget would deliver.