Kimberly-Clark tax incentive bill delayed, not dead

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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - A tax break package designed to stop giant papermaker Kimberly-Clark from eliminating 600 jobs in northeast Wisconsin is stalled in the state Legislature, with only hours remaining in the Senate's final session.

Action 2 News spoke with Neenah's mayor, who tells us he believes the bill is not dead yet. The office of Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton) says the bill was going to be on the floor for a vote, but it was pulled to give Kimberly-Clark time to decide if there's interest in the bill and incentives to save the Cold Spring plant in Fox Crossing and Neenah Nonwovens plant.

Sen. Roth issued this statement:

"The conscious decision was made to put the bill on the calendar so if we had heard from Kimberly-Clark in time, we’d be able to pass it. Since we have not received a determination, a decision was made to pull the bill back, and hold it until we hear from Kimberly-Clark. The moment we hear from Kimberly-Clark and they’re receptive to the state’s offer, we absolutely will come back as a Senate and will bring this bill forward for a vote. The Governor, myself, and State Senate we are committed to help these 600 workers and the 2,000 family members they support.”

If Kimberly-Clark accepts the terms, the Senate would hold an extraordinary session to vote on it.

The company did not ask for the bill and never committed to keeping the jobs if it passed.

There is no deadline for it to respond.

Neenah Mayor Dean Kaufert told us he was in touch with Senate members all afternoon.

"They're telling me that a lot of the senators, they want to hear from Kimberly-Clark. They want Kimberly-Clark to make the decision. If they are going to stay, then the state and the senators would be willing to potentially help them out with this bill," Kaufert said.

Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson said the incentives for Kimberly-Clark do nothing to help other workers at struggling paper mills in the area.

"This doesn't just affect one company. We have seen over the course of six or seven months, we've seen this affect five plants and 1,400 jobs. This is an industry-wide problem and it deserves an industry-wide solution," Nelson said.

Kimberly-Clark said closing the two Neenah-area plants was part of a larger reorganization to divest some plants and lay off about 5,000 workers.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Tuesday it's hard to move ahead with the bill not knowing exactly what Kimberly-Clark may need in order to keep two factories open.

Nelson said, "This has been out there for at least a month or so. There's been plenty of time to work on this. I think what we need to do right now is, we have to recognize that from the very beginning this was not the right approach because it's not an industry-wide strategy."

The tax credit on jobs for Kimberly-Clark was expected to cost between $100 million and $115 million. It's modeled after incentives given for the Foxconn project in southeastern Wisconsin.

The incentives bill passed the Assembly, and if it gets a vote in the Senate and passes, it would go to Gov. Walker who pushed for the legislation and is likely to sign it.

Fitzgerald said he's hopeful Gov. Scott Walker's administration can continue working with the company and possibly take action without needing the Legislature to pass a bill.

Mayor Kaufert says it doesn't mean there won't be a deal.

"What they're saying is, they're not prepared to act today, but if Kimberly-Clark and the unions come to some form of agreements that they will then call back the Senate and they will be able to take that bill up at a future date."

Copyright 2018 WBAY. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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