State Senate Republicans appear to lack support to pass an incentives package backed by Gov. Scott Walker and already passed by Assembly Republicans to retain Kimberly-Clark paper jobs in the Fox Cities, Sen. Alberta Darling acknowledged.
Darling, R-River Hills, co-chairs the Legislature’s budget-writing committee and was asked at a Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce event in Madison on Monday whether Senate Republicans have the votes to pass the Kimberly-Clark proposal.
“If we had to go to the floor today, I don’t think there would be the votes. But I’m not saying there won’t be,” Darling said.
Darling said “the discussion is still on the table” about incentives for Kimberly-Clark.
“I don’t know what that ultimate commitment is going to look like,” Darling said.
Kimberly-Clark officials announced in January that they planned to close facilities in Neenah and Fox Crossing, resulting in the loss of as many as 600 paper jobs. But after reaching a new deal with union workers at the facilities, the company said last month that it would commit to retaining the jobs in the Fox Cities if it reached a deal with the state on incentives.
A package that passed the Assembly earlier this year would give Kimberly-Clark terms comparable to what the state gave to Taiwanese electronics maker Foxconn to locate in Racine County. It would allow Kimberly-Clark to claim tax credits for 17 percent of eligible payroll costs in exchange for retaining jobs in the state.
The proposal has since stalled in the state Senate, with at least one Senate Republican, Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, expressing concerns about the precedent of giving such lucrative economic development packages to companies other than Foxconn.
Darling said Monday that she wants to work with the Senate’s chief advocate for Kimberly-Clark assistance, Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton. But she said it’s impossible to compare retaining the Kimberly-Clark jobs to the Foxconn project, which could mean as many as 13,000 new jobs in the state.
“Many are trying to draw direct parallels with Foxconn, and actually, it’s impossible to do that,” Darling said.
Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling said she has not been contacted by Senate Republicans to talk about getting Democratic support for a Kimberly-Clark measure.
Senate Republicans met last week to discuss the topic. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, issued a statement afterward saying “Senate Republicans had a productive discussion” and “like anything else that comes before the Senate, we will be deliberative in determining the best path forward to keep our paper industry strong.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said at the WMC event that there’s no reason for the Assembly to reconvene to take up an amended version of the Kimberly-Clark measure because it already passed the package in February.
Vos, R-Rochester, said he hopes the Senate will pass the bill that the Assembly already adopted. He stressed that, like the Foxconn package, the Kimberly-Clark package would link the tax credits to job creation.
“This is not any kind of a giveaway,” Vos said. “It’s literally something that is being earned.”