Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants members of the state Senate to convene this month to approve a $100 million tax incentive package designed to keep hundreds of paper company jobs in Wisconsin, but it's not clear whether the proposal has enough support to pass.
"We need support from both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to save these good-paying Wisconsin jobs," Walker tweeted on Thursday.
He told reporters in Milwaukee he's working to secure the 17 votes needed to approve the bill in the Senate, which would need to return in an extraordinary session in order to give it a vote.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitgerald, R-Juneau, said he's working to find Republican votes to support the bill, which aims to prevent paper company Kimberly-Clark from closing two plants located in Neenah and Fox Crossing at a loss of 610 jobs.
"I urge Sen. Shilling to bring her caucus together to measure how much support there is amongst Senate Democrats for the Kimberly-Clark bill. Along with the Governor’s efforts to build support for the proposal, I am continuing to work on bringing the votes together within the Republican caucus," Fitzgerald said in a statement.
Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, didn't offer Fitzgerald much in the way of a lifeline.
"Senators Fitzgerald and Roth seem to have forgotten that they are still in the majority and are trying to pass the blame because of their inability to get this done," Shilling said in a statement. "They have already killed this bill once and it doesn’t look like their Republican majority is any closer to getting a deal done this time around. Similar to efforts to close the 'Dark Store' tax loophole, we’ve seen that broad bipartisan support isn’t enough to overcome the far-right Republican agenda. It’s like the GOP Budget debacle all over again."
Under the bill, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation could give Kimberly-Clark refundable tax credits equal to 17 percent of the company's payroll at its Neenah and Fox Crossing facilities. Kimberly-Clark would also be exempt from paying sales taxes on any building materials used for construction or development at those facilities, and would receive a 15 percent capital investment credit.
The legislation includes similar clawback provisions to the ones Foxconn is subjected to under its contract with the state. Any agreement reached between the state and Kimberly-Clark would be in effect for up to 15 years.
According to an estimate from WEDC, the company could receive between $7 million and $8 million per year under the bill.
Walker first proposed the arrangement in February, after Kimberly-Clark, which makes products including Kleenex tissue, Huggies diapers and Cottonelle toilet paper, announced plans to cut as many as 5,000 jobs and shutter or sell 10 plants globally. The Assembly approved the deal that month, but the Senate never took it up.
The Appleton Post Crescent reported in July that United Steelworkers Local 2-482 reached an agreement that would "provide Kimberly-Clark with concessions that would allow the facility to remain open." The agreement hinged on the state approving the incentive package.
Kimberly-Clark spokesman Terry Balluck said at the time that with the union agreement in place, the company was able to "commit to using the incentives if the proposed legislation is passed and an agreement with WEDC is reached."
Some details of the deal remain unclear, including whether both plants would remain open and whether the agreement would need to be rewritten if one plant closed.