Flynn criticizes Foxconn, Walker in bid for governor
By Kevin Boneske
BROWN COUNTY – In his effort to become Wisconsin’s next governor, Matt Flynn is making the state’s deal with Foxconn to build a factory in southeast Wisconsin a main issue in his campaign.
Flynn, an attorney and former Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairman who also made an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 1986, was in the Green Bay area Friday, June 29, to campaign for the office held by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Flynn stopped by The Press office in Howard to talk about Foxconn and other issues in his bid for office.
“I strongly oppose the Foxconn deal,” Flynn said. “I think it’s terrible for the state of Wisconsin. It’s $4.5 billion to a Chinese company that has a terrible record of environmental and labor violations in mainland communist China, even though they’re Taiwanese, but they do a lot of their business in mainland China. Mainland China’s laws are flimsy, so my feeling is if they can’t obey those laws, we don’t want them here. We don’t want them polluting Lake Michigan, and $4.5 billion is just too much money. That’s $300 million for 15 years, and taxpayers around the state have to pay for this.”
Flynn, who finds himself in a Democratic field of eight candidates seeking the nomination in the Aug. 14 primary, said he is the only gubernatorial candidate who will stop the Foxconn project with immediate litigation upon taking office in January for the next four-year term.
“I’m going to go to court and I’m going to bring an action to rescind the contract, because it’s an illegal and unconstitutional contract, and it’s unenforceable in Wisconsin,” he said.
As to what he believes is illegal and unconstitutional about the deal with Foxconn, Flynn said that’s because “you can’t pass a statute just to benefit one company, one person.”
“It’s has to be a general applicability, and in this case, they’re exempting them from our environmental impact statement laws, our wetlands laws, and from the jurisdiction of the (state) Court of Appeals,” he said. “And I think that is wrong. Every American company has to submit to the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals. Why shouldn’t a Chinese company? I just think it’s wrong.”
When asked about Foxconn’s recent announcement about the Taiwan-based technology company also purchasing the WaterMark building in downtown Green Bay and planning to hire 200 workers at that location, Flynn called that a “political stunt.”
“They’re in serious trouble around the state,” he said. “Nobody wants them. It’s not worth $4.5 billion to have them buy a building in Green Bay, and then in a year from now when the heat goes off when they stop it and fire everybody. There’s no contract that requires them to do any of this. So, they’re doing these political stunts around the state, but the people of Green Bay will be paying a lot of taxes for this and the benefit is going to go to Foxconn.”
In the event the Foxconn project planned in Wisconsin isn’t stopped, Flynn said state’s payment of roughly $300 million a year for 15 years is going to be a “skeleton hand that’s going to reach out in the future and strangle our budgets.”
“We’re not going to be able to put the money that we need in public schools, the UW system,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to rebuild our roads. In fact, they’re taking road money and building roads for Foxconn in Racine County and neglecting roads around the state. That’s just not right. This is a very, very dangerous and bad thing for Wisconsin.”
When asked what differentiates himself from the other seven Democrats running for governor, Flynn noted he is the only one who is a military veteran after having served in the Navy.
“As I go around the state, even in areas Donald Trump won (in the 2016 presidential race), my fellow veterans have been very supportive,” he said. “So, I think I’m going to do very well. As far as issues go… I’m the only Democrat who has said I stop Foxconn and rescind the agreement and make sure they leave the state.”
Second in polls
Flynn, who ranked second among Democratic gubernatorial candidates behind State Superintendent Tony Evers in a recent Marquette Law School poll of Wisconsin voters, said he believes Evers is “my main competitor” with the primary now a two-person race between Evers and himself.
Though two other Democratic gubernatorial candidates recently dropped out of the race and there have been calls that others, including Flynn, to exit the field, Flynn said he won’t be calling for others to pull out of the primary.
“People can run if they want,” he said. “Some of them are not doing well. Some of them are very low in the polls. I’m No. 2 in the polls right now and we keep moving up…. The people that would want me out would very much like me out because they’re afraid of me. They’re afraid of the fact that we’re doing very well.”
Flynn said he has “a very strong base” of support in Milwaukee, Green Bay and the Fox Valley, as well as “doing quite well in rural areas.”
To boost himself to the top of the polls in the Democratic field, Flynn noted he will begin airing television ads in July.
“Our own polls show that if people are just presented with a name, Evers and I are at the top,” he said. “But if we then define who we are, in other words other than just the name, and all positive about Tony Evers and all positive about me, I beat him.”
Flynn also said he won’t be running any negative campaign ads against his primary opponents.
“Other people in the race have not taken that pledge, so other people in the race have said things that are some hard things,” he said. “That’s up to them, but I will not go after anybody personally. I will go after no Democrat. I think it is legitimate with Scott Walker that I point out differences with him on issues, and I will.”
Act 10, wages
Besides the state’s agreement with Foxconn, Flynn said he differs with Walker on a number of other issues.
“I would not have passed Act 10 (limiting bargaining rights of public employee unions),” he said. “I think Act 10 is a disaster. I think it has demoralized teachers, lowered teachers’ wages. That’s wrong. I would not have passed right-to-work (legislation). I think that’s a disaster. I believe in unions. I believe in collective bargaining. And I also would have kept the prevailing wage (law). He got rid of the prevailing wage and I also would have raised the minimum wage.”
When asked how high the minimum wage should be set at, Flynn said he favors eventually raising it to $15 an hour.
“I think the goal is $15 an hour,” he said. “Obviously you can’t go to it immediately, and obviously there’s going to be a lot of discussion about summer hires and that kind of thing, but having said that, my goal is to come in a reasonable pace eventually to $15 an hour.”
Flynn said he favors “a very significant increase in state school aids to absorb the cost of higher teacher salaries.”
“There’s got to be higher teacher salaries, and then the question is how to do we pay for that,” he said. “Well, we’re going to get rid of Foxconn, that’s $4.5 billion. We’re going to get rid of the manufacturers credit, which costs us over $1 billion and it’s just a tax cut for people who own manufacturing companies…. I would also take the $1 billion in Medicaid money, going out to Washington to get it, and I would take the $800 million in train money. That pool of money would improve our budgets enough to have full funding and higher teacher salaries for public schools and also the UW system.”
Flynn said he favors improving the state’s funding formula, for which poorer school districts should receive more state aid than richer ones.
“I would reform that formula, and I do have ideas of how to do it, but I would bring in the stakeholders who are interested – teachers, school board members, local businesses, property tax associations and say ‘What do you think we should do?’ and it’s my ultimate decision what we should submit to the legislature, but I think all the stakeholders would have a voice in it,” he said.
However, Flynn said he believes property taxes in the state “are way too high and too much is being loaded on them.”
“To keep having people say ‘We have to raise our own property taxes to pay for our schools,’ no, that’s wrong,” he said. “They’re too high throughout the state. They’re much higher than anywhere else in the country. And what I’m saying they should be lowered, but the only way they can be lowered is more state aid that comes out of the income tax.”
To increase transportation funding, Flynn said he would favor indexing the state’s gasoline tax to inflation, which was repealed by the state legislature in 2005.
“Since then, we have either neglected or simply flat out borrowed money to repair the roads,” he said. “Right now the debt service on our transportation item in the budget is over 20 percent. That means 20 cents of every dollar goes to pay interest on bonds that we borrowed in the past. That’s unsustainable. That’s crazy. It used to be 7 percent.”
However, Flynn said he would not support implementing toll roads in Wisconsin.
“Tolls are very inefficient,” he said. “Over 23 percent of the money you get goes to administration.”
When asked about possible new road projects, Flynn said he favors making four-lane roads out of all the highways that run east-to-west across the state to help boost the economies of those areas.
“The only one that is essentially four-lane the whole way is 29,” he said. “That’s a real good one the whole way. All they rest of them – you know 10’s gotten a little better – but all the rest of them have patches that are not improved enough and are not four-lane. My goal – and I don’t think I can do it in one term – but my goal (is to start) the process to make four-lane the 13 east-west highways.
Flynn said he favors expanding municipal broadband Internet access throughout the state.
“Broadband should be like electricity or water…,” he said. “You can’t have a small business, you can’t be a good student without Internet access all the time.”
Flynn said he would like to serve two four-year terms as governor.
“I think eight years is the most any governor should serve,” he said. “I think there should be term limits on governor, and I think eight years is enough, 12 years is too much.”
Flynn said he favors legalizing marijuana use in Wisconsin.
“Tax it and regulate it only for people over 21,” he said. “If people smoke it and drive, they’re going to get punished just like drunk driving. Right now it’s legal in Colorado, legal in California and it’s crazy to have it a crime and go to jail in Wisconsin.”
Same name as backup QB
When asked about having the same name as a former backup quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, Flynn said “I’m not related to him, but I like him and frankly I wish the Packers would have kept him as a backup.”
“I don’t think that hurts me (having the same name as a former Packers backup quarterback),” he said. “Somebody said something really great. They said, ‘Why don’t you get Aaron Rodgers to run for governor, you run for lieutenant governor, and you guys will win.’ And so I haven’t talked to Rodgers about that, but I don’t want to be lieutenant governor, so that’s why I’m doing this.”