NEENAH, Wis. (WBAY) - UPDATE: February 22, 2018
A tax break package designed to stop consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark from cutting 600 Wisconsin jobs has cleared the state Assembly.
The Assembly passed it 56-37 Thursday and it now goes to the state Senate.
Democrats say the move is just a political ploy, especially since Kimberly-Clark did not ask for the incentives. The company has been noncommittal on whether the tax breaks would entice them to reverse a decision to close two plants in northeast Wisconsin.
The tax credit on jobs alone could cost the state between $100 million and $115 million over the 15 years.
The incentives are modeled after a multi-billion incentives deal to entice electronics giant Foxconn Technology Group into building a flat-screen plant in Mount Pleasant.
A coalition of conservative groups opposes the Kimberly-Clark deal. They say it's bad economics and sets a bad precedent for economic development.
Kimberly-Clark says it is taking Wisconsin's job tax credit proposal into consideration after announcing plans to close two facilities in the Fox Valley.
The papermaker sent a letter to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, which was shared with Action 2 News.
State Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton), Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauana), and Rep. Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah) have introduced legislation that would create a Foxconn-like deal for Kimberly-Clark to keep the Neenah Nonwovens and Cold Spring facilities operating.
It would authorize the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to allow those facilities to be eligible for a 17 percent tax credit for jobs paying $30,000 to $100,000.
Wisconsin law allows for a 7 percent jobs tax credit. The state made an exception to the law for the new Foxconn facility being built in southeast Wisconsin.
The proposal is scheduled to get a vote in the state legislature on Thursday. Gov. Scott Walker has said that he supports the plan.
The company said closing Neenah Nonwovens and Cold Spring is part of its global restructuring plan, which would cut 5,000 jobs throughout the paper giant.
The closures would impact an estimated 600 local workers.
In a letter to the WEDC, Kimberly-Clark official John Deitrich says the company is in the midst of a collective bargaining process and will take the state's proposal into consideration.
"Any final decisions related to our facilities will be communicated by the company after negotiations with the union," reads Deitrich's letter.
Democrats have also introduced a plan for saving paper jobs in the Fox Valley, not just at Kimberly-Clark.
State Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and State Rep. Amanda Stuck (D-Appleton) are proposing a bill to create a $30 million Papermaker Fund. They say for the cost of 1 percent of Foxconn's state deal, it would help mills convert paper-making machinery from white paper to meet the current demand for brown paper packaging and install upgrades to make their mills more energy-efficient.