Legislation to save Kimberly-Clark jobs reaches Senate, Assembly

Published: Feb. 15, 2018 at 10:19 AM CST
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Two lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at keeping Kimberly-Clark from closing plants in the Neenah area.

State Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton), Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauana), and Rep. Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah) introduced the legislation Thursday.

It would authorize the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to allow Neenah Nonwovens and Cold Spring in Fox Crossing to be eligible for a 17 percent jobs tax credit for jobs paying $30,000 to $100,000.

This proposal is expected to cost taxpayers between $6.7 million and $7.8 million per year.

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 legislation would allow for a similar deal for Kimberly-Clark, which announced on January 31 its intention to close the plants.

"We also want to go bigger than that. We want to go and offer KC a tax credit if they would bring other jobs back to Wisconsin and create more infrastructure, capital expenditures. So if they do that, the more jobs they create the more capital expenditures they create, the more of a tax credit we will give them," explained Roth.

Kimberly-Clark could opt for a 15 percent capital investment credit.

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 closure of Neenah Nonwovens and Cold Spring facilities would impact 600 local workers.

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.

Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) added, "These guys have enough bills at the end of session that spend way more money than we have available right now. So the question is, is this a real proposal or is this trying to put something out there? They got caught sleeping, you know, while the company got rid of 600 jobs."

Gov. Walker has already pledged his support for the Republican bill.

During a stop Thursday in Ashwaubenon on Thursday he said, "Unlike some of the plans talking about a fund that may or may not tie into jobs, we're doing with this legislation we called for specifically tied to jobs. If they keep the 610 jobs we're talking about, they will get the kind of incentives we provided for Foxconn."

The Joint Committee on Finance is expected to hold the first public hearing on this bill sometime next week.