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Walker defends environmental protections in Foxconn bill

Gov. Scott Walker is defending environmental protections in the Foxconn bill while saying a few weeks for the Legislature to debate the legislation is "a pretty good amount of time."

But the Legislature's top Republicans differed sharply on: how quickly to move the bill setting up $3 billion in incentives for the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer; if the Foxconn bill should be the priority over the overdue state budget; and whether the legislation should go to the Joint Finance Committee.

Walker said he's open to small changes to the legislation, which was formally introduced yesterday. Still, he said there's "plenty of time" for the public to weigh in on the Foxconn deal, which will be up for a public hearing in the Assembly on Thursday with a committee vote expected Tuesday.

Walker said while there could be "a few tweaks here or there" to the special session bill, he doesn't expect major changes. The big required item, he said, is letting the state "pay for growth" and let Foxconn get $3 billion in incentives as it meets certain targets.

During a stop in Milwaukee before meeting with lawmakers, Walker said the Taiwanese manufacturer would face a higher bar for wetland remediation than state law now requires.

While Foxconn would not have to draw permits to fill wetlands, Walker said Foxconn would have to replace twice the wetlands it fills. He noted current state law requires builders to replace just 1.2 times the amount of wetlands they fill.

"We just know when you're talking about 1,000 acres, to be able to access that, when you're talking about 20 million square feet, you've got to have some flexibility in how you do that," Walker said.

He also said the provision represents a "pretty good deal for people who want wetlands."

Walker said the technology company will still have to abide by federal rules and state environmental laws as it builds its proposed 20 million-square-foot campus.

"What we're proposing is streamlining the process," Walker said. "But the laws in terms of clean air, clean land, clean water will still have to be abided by."

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