Walker, lawmakers call for Kimberly-Clark tax credits


Gov. Scott Walker says he's offering Kimberly-Clark "the same deal for jobs as Foxconn" to stop the consumer products giant founded in Wisconsin from cutting 600 jobs.

Walker made the comment on Twitter Monday. In a news release later in the day, Walker said he would work with the Legislature to approve an increase in tax credits available for job retention from 7 percent to 17 percent.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation says in a tweet it is working with Walker and partners in the Fox Valley "to make a strong case for why Kimberly-Clark should maintain operations" and not close two plants.

The Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark announced last week that it planned to close manufacturing facilities in Neenah and nearby Fox Crossing, resulting in 600 job cuts. Kimberly-Clark makes Kleenex tissue and Huggies diapers.

Walker approved a state incentive package for Foxconn that ties nearly $3 billion from the state if the Taiwanese company creates 13,000 jobs and invests $10 billion. Walker says the Kimberly-Clark offer he is proposing is based on the incentives being given to Foxconn.

Walker says retaining Wisconsin companies like Kimberly-Clark is just as important as attracting new businesses to the state.

State Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, said he is working with State Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, on creating the legislation.

"We're going to offer Kimberly-Clark the same terms that we offered Foxconn. These 600 jobs and the families they support are vital to Northeast Wisconsin," Roth told FOX 11 News Monday.

That offer would include giving Kimberly-Clark a 17% tax credit, more than double the 7% currently allowed by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

In a statement Governor Walker said it's time to act: "Retaining outstanding Wisconsin companies like Kimberly-Clark is just as important as attracting new companies to our state, which is why I'm proposing we offer larger tax credits to ensure the company keeps those 600 jobs where they belong in Wisconsin."

(reporter) The secretary of WEDC also released a statement on the plan today, saying: "Kimberly-Clark is a major employer in Wisconsin and the Fox Valley, and WEDC is committed to working closely with Governor Walker and our key partners in the region to make a concerted effort to avoid any job losses."

Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson told us it's great to see the governor and republicans working to help save paper jobs, but...

"Why has it taken this long?" he asked.

Nelson said he's been asking the governor to help for months, even proposing a Papermaker Fund to assist companies in expannding to make brown paper. Coincidentally, Nelson and several state Democratic lawmakers announced Monday legislation to create a $30 million fund.

Democrats have criticized Walker for enacting nearly $3 billion in state tax incentives for the Taiwanese-based Foxconn while not being able to stop Kimberly-Clark from closing the Wisconsin facilities.

"We can help the paper industry. We can save paper jobs and for a fraction of the price of Foxconn," said Nelson.

"We're only asking for one percent for each fund fo waht we were able to do for a foreign company just to keep the jobs we have here," added Democratic State Rep. Amanda Stuck.

Roth said, however, the Republicans' plan is better. He told us the Democrats' plan is too invasive.

"We, traditionally, in capitalist societies like America, we don't delve into telling businesses how to do what they do," said Roth.

As for Kimberly-Clark itself, a company spokesperson would not say whether the company would accept the Republicans' offer, saying in a statement: "Accomplishing the goals of Kimberly-Clark's global restructuring program will be challenging and there are difficult decisions that accompany the program."

Roth told us the bill is expected to be written by late this week or early next.

Walker also said the state was in discussions with the owner of the Appleton Coated mill in Combined Locks about reopening the mostly shuttered mill.