Gov. Walker wants lawmakers to return to vote on Kimberly-Clark
MADISON — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants the Legislature to return this month to consider a $100 million tax incentive bill that would keep paper products maker Kimberly-Clark from shuttering a plant in the Fox Valley.
Without enough Republican support for the package in the state Senate, the bill would need the support of an unknown-number of Democrats to pass. Walker said Thursday that he’s trying to get the 17 votes it would need in the chamber, where the GOP has an 18-15 majority.
“We need support from both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to save these good-paying Wisconsin jobs,” Walker tweeted . He later told reporters in Milwaukee that he wants the Senate to call itself into what is known as an “extraordinary session” to approve the bill, which the Assembly passed in February.
Republican leaders have said they don’t have the Senate votes to pass the bill, as is, and Democrats have not shown a willingness to help out.
“Gov. Walker seems to have forgotten how to make a deal,” said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling in a statement. “The Governor, Senate President and Assembly Speaker clearly aren’t on the same page with the fringe elements of their party that are holding this bill hostage.”
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald had no immediate comment.
Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark , which makes Kleenex tissues, Huggies diapers and other paper products, said in January that it planned to close two northeastern Wisconsin plants, costing about 600 jobs. The closings were part of the company’s plan to cut up to 5,500 jobs and close or sell 10 plants worldwide.
Hopes of saving them were rekindled in July after the union representing workers there agreed to concessions. Fitzgerald said the company would keep the Fox Crossing plant open if the incentive deal passes, which would save 500 jobs. A smaller plant in Neenah that employs about 110 people would still close.
A spokesman for Kimberly-Clark did not immediately return a message Thursday seeking comment.
Walker’s call for a vote by the end of the month came a day after he said it would be easier to deal with the issue after the November election. One of the three seats Democrats are targeting in the election is held by Republican Senate President Roger Roth, whose district includes the plants.
The bill is modeled after incentives given for Foxconn Technology Group to put a plant in Wisconsin. The state’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates the Kimberly-Clark bill would cost the state $109 million over 15 years, assuming jobs for 610 employees earning more than $70,000 would be retained.
If only one plant were kept open, with 500 jobs, the cost to the state would be less.