By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker planned Thursday to announce a $28 million deal with the paper-products giant Kimberly-Clark Corp. using authority that his Democratic successor would not have should Walker sign a bill passed during a lame-duck legislative session last week, according to a published report.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported details of the deal ahead of Walker’s official announcement, which is planned for Thursday afternoon outside Kimberly-Clark’s plant in Cold Spring, which employs nearly 400 people. Walker’s office did not immediately confirm the report, which was attributed to people familiar with the agreement.
Walker’s announcement comes after the Legislature couldn’t muster enough votes to pass a larger tax-incentive bill worth up to $100 million for Kimberly-Clark. Yet, lawmakers did manage to pass a bill that would require the Legislature to sign off on the establishment of new enterprise zones, which Walker wanted to rely on for the Kimberly-Clark deal, the Journal Sentinel reported.
Democrats have accused Republicans of using the lame-duck legislation to grab power from Gov.-elect Tony Evers as well as the incoming attorney general, Josh Kaul.
Evers renewed his call for Walker to veto the legislation, saying in a statement that “the governor of our state shouldn’t be hamstrung when it comes to economic development.”
Walker has signaled general support for the lame-duck bills, but has yet to sign them. He said earlier this week he would consider vetoing parts of them but did not specify which parts.
Kimberly-Clark was founded nearly 150 years ago in Wisconsin and now has its headquarters in Dallas. It was weighing whether to close the Wisconsin plant or one in Conway, Arkansas.
Under the new deal, the $28 million would be paid to Kimberly-Clark over five years, the Journal Sentinel reported. The company in return would keep the plant in Cold Spring open and close one in Arkansas, the newspaper said.
Kimberly-Clark had originally asked for a deal by the end of September but agreed to wait to make a final decision about the plant until after the Legislature had acted. Republicans failed to muster enough votes in the Senate for the original bill, which was not voted on during the lame-duck session last week but would have given Kimberly-Clark as much as $100 million.
Opponents cast the original measure as a corporate giveaway and said the government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers. But supporters said the money would be well spent if it saved jobs.
After the bill died, Walker pledged to reach another deal to save the plant before he leaves office next month. He lost his bid for re-election to Evers.
Kimberly-Clark, which makes Kleenex tissues, Huggies diapers and other paper products, said in January that it planned to close both the Fox Crossing and smaller Neenah plants in Wisconsin as part of the company’s plan to cut up to 5,500 jobs and close or sell 10 plants worldwide. Its North American consumer business has its headquarters in Neenah, Wisconsin, where the company was founded in 1872. Wisconsin is home to about 3,000 Kimberly-Clark employees.
The Fox Crossing plant employs about 388 people. Company officials had said they would add about 52 jobs and invest another $500 million over 15 years if the original bill before the Legislature were approved.