September 12, 2018
Kimberly-Clark will keep open one of two northeastern Wisconsin plants if the state Senate approves a welfare package by the end of the month, a legislative leader says.
GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau, said Tuesday that the paper and hygiene product maker would close its Neenah nonwovens plant that employs about 110 people, but the incentive package could save the Cold Spring plant in Fox Crossing that has 500 jobs.
A bill that was approved by the Assembly in February but died in the Senate would increase tax credits available to the company for job retention from 7 percent to 17 percent on annual salaries less than $100,000 a year. The bill’s job credits component alone is estimated to cost $100 million to $115 million over 15 years, but that estimate is based on keeping both plants open.
The welfare package for the papermaker has the backing of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) , the state’s largest business organization. The group has spent an estimated $19.9 million on outside electioneering activities since January 2010 to help elect Republicans and conservative legislative and statewide candidates.
Republicans control the Senate 18-15, but Fitzgerald said he didn’t know if there were enough GOP votes to pass the bill without Democratic support. Fitzgerald also doubted a bill could be approved before the November elections, let alone by the end of September.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker said he wants to give the paper company the same level of tax credits per job as a deal passed last year to lure Foxconn to Wisconsin. The Kimberly-Clark bill is modeled after the $4-billion-plus state welfare package for Foxconn to build a massive flat-screen manufacturing facility in southeastern Wisconsin.
Kimberly-Clark executives and other employees contributed $14,645 to legislative and statewide candidates between January 2010 and December 2017, including $5,340 to Walker. Nearly $2 of every $3 in campaign contributions from Kimberly-Clark employees went to Republicans – about $9,200 versus about $5,450 – to Democrats.
No current Republican or Democratic state senators have received contributions from Kimberly-Clark employees.