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Senate President urges lawmakers to give Foxconn-style aid package to paper giant Kimberly-Clark

July 24, 2018

State Senate President Roger Roth says he hopes the chamber will act soon, in a bid to save as many as 600 jobs in the Fox Valley, to give paper giant Kimberly-Clark a state incentive package modeled on what was given last year to electronics maker Foxconn.

Kimberly-Clark also signaled a new openness Tuesday to retaining the jobs if state lawmakers provide the incentives.

Roth issued a statement Tuesday saying he will “be working with Majority Leader (Scott) Fitzgerald and members to help get the Senate in a position to come back in and pass this important legislation.”

That raises the prospect of the state Senate reconvening this year. The chamber adjourned this spring, marking what then appeared to be its close of business for 2018.

“From my perspective, we need to come back in as soon as possible,” Roth said in an interview. “If we don’t act, jobs will be lost.”

Fitzgerald did not initially commit to reconvening the Senate. In a brief statement, Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he plans to meet next week with GOP senators, Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling and Gov. Scott Walker “to determine the most appropriate and realistic path forward for the Senate.”

In January Kimberly-Clark appeared set, as part of a global restructuring, to close factories in Neenah and Fox Crossing, causing the loss of about 600 jobs.

But a potential breakthrough emerged this week: a new agreement ratified by Kimberly-Clark union workers Monday night could lead to saving jobs at the facility, if paired with state tax incentives.

Roth said the new agreement, which reportedly includes worker concessions, “changes the dynamics” around keeping the plants open.

Kimberly-Clark issued a statement saying with the new agreement, it “will advise the State of Wisconsin that it is now in a position to commit to using the incentives if the proposed legislation is passed and an agreement” is reached with the state’s economic-development agency, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

The state Assembly in February passed a lucrative tax-incentive deal modeled on one given Foxconn to locate near Racine. 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 state Senate never enacted the measure.

Roth said Tuesday that passing it through the Senate won’t be easy -- adding that it may not be able to pass with support from GOP senators only.

“We’ll need some Democrats to come to the table,” Roth said.

WEDC Secretary Mark Hogan said in a statement Tuesday that the agreement between Kimberly-Clark and the union for workers at the Wisconsin facilities, United Steelworkers, “would ensure the company’s Cold Spring facility remains in operation.”

“We look forward to working with the company, Gov. Walker and state legislators to find a path forward to secure Kimberly-Clark’s presence in Wisconsin for decades to come,” Hogan said.

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