Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he is open to considering other legislation in addition to a $100 million incentive package for Kimberly-Clark during an extraordinary session scheduled one week after the November election.
Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Tuesday they will call an extraordinary session starting Nov. 12, with plans for the Senate to vote later in the month on a bill already passed by the Assembly.
The bill would offer up to $100 million in tax incentives to the paper company if Kimberly-Clark does not close both of its Fox Valley plants, which together employ about 600 people. The company is reconsidering closing its Cold Spring plant, located in Fox Crossing, as it awaits action from the Legislature. The Cold Sprint plant employs about 500 people.
The Assembly voted to approve the deal in February, shortly after Gov. Scott Walker proposed it following the company's announcement that it planned to cut as many as 5,000 jobs and shutter or sell 10 plants globally.
Vos told reporters he expects the Senate to vote on the bill as passed by the Assembly, but said he would keep an open mind and consider changes to the legislation if the Senate makes them.
"I do want to have these (company-specific incentive packages) be a rare circumstance," Vos said after a WisPolitics luncheon in Madison. "This should not be something that happens on a regular basis. Of course I support Foxconn because I think it’s transformational. I supported the Kimberly-Clark bill because I believe that gives the best opportunity to retain an awful lot of good paying jobs, and their ancillary suppliers."
Some questions have been raised about the language of the original bill, which refers to both the Neenah and Fox Crossing facilities. Vos said it's possible the language would need to be changed to eliminate references to the Neenah plant, but said he thinks Walker could make those adjustments with his veto powers.
"Governor Walker will be considering all options to ensure these family supporting jobs stay in Wisconsin," said Walker spokeswoman Amy Hasenberg when asked whether the governor would use his veto power to change the legislation.
Democrats argued that lawmakers should use the extraordinary session to take action on other issues, including transportation funding and addressing the so-called dark store loophole.
Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said on Twitter the state Senate "should take up legislation in a Special Session to protect families and strengthen health care access."
Vos told reporters he would be open to working with the Senate to pass legislation protecting insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. The Assembly passed a bill that would bar insurance companies from denying or charging more for coverage coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Democrats opposed it because it would allow insurers to charge more if a patient had a gap in coverage. The Senate never took up the bill.
"Anything’s possible," Vos said of the extraordinary session. "As of right now, I would be open again to looking at pre-existing conditions. We voted on that in the Assembly. It would be great if they would pass that in the Senate … If we’re going to be back in I’m always open to looking at other issues that are unfinished."
Fitzgerald, in a statement, said he is willing to consider other legislation, too.
"Speaker Vos has broached the topic with me of expanding the scope of the session to consider additional pieces of legislation," Fitzgerald said. "While the senate’s focus will be on tackling the Kimberly-Clark issue first and foremost, I would certainly not rule out taking up additional bills if there is support from the caucuses and the Governor."