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Walker: State Could Give Foxconn-Style Tax Credits To Major Paper Companies

Governor's Comments Come Just Days After He Voiced Support For Giving Kimberly-Clark Bigger Tax Credits

Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday he’d be open to offering other paper companies Foxconn-style tax credits just days after he floated the suggestion for consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark.

Kimberly-Clark announced last week that it would close plants in Neenah and Fox Crossing, resulting in the loss of 600 jobs.

Walker responded Monday by proposing expanding a jobs tax credit for the company from 7 percent to 17 percent, which was the same number used to lure Foxconn to southeast Wisconsin.

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Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Walker said he’d consider expanding that to more companies.

“We’d be willing to match for keeping these jobs at Kimberly-Clark and for that matter other major paper companies in the state if you’re talking about significant opportunities to keep and grow jobs in the state,” Walker said.

Walker was asked whether the state would run the risk of other companies seeking similar tax breaks.

“You do, but for us, what we try to do is say these are catalytic things,” Walker said.

Republicans who control the Legislature were more hesitant to weigh in on Walker’s proposal earlier Wednesday when it was limited to Kimberly-Clark.

“I don’t even know enough about it, to be honest with you,” said Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he still needed to discuss the plan with members of his caucus.

“We have not talked about it,” Vos said. “It’s very possible that (Kimberly-Clark) already made the decision and it doesn’t matter.”

Time is running out on this legislative session. Fitzgerald told members of the Wisconsin Counties Association that the full state Senate would only be in session for two more days in 2018, one in February and one in March.

GOP leaders weighed in on a variety of other issues Wednesday, including:

Dark Stores: Fitzgerald and Vos both said a bill that would require big box store retailers to pay more in property taxes was dead for this session. Vos said he was worried the plan would hurt retailers already feeling the pinch from internet competition.

“The last thing that I want to do is to try to squeeze blood out of a turnip,” Vos said.

The bipartisan plan has been a priority of cities and counties, who argue Wisconsin’s tax burden is being shifted from big retailers to homeowners and small businesses.

Wetlands: Republicans said they expected to pass a bill that would let developers fill about 100,000 acres of wetlands. GOP sponsors said Wednesday that two conservation groups had dropped their opposition to the plan, although the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and other groups remained opposed.

Child Tax Credit: It remained unclear what Republicans would do with Walker’s plan to offer parents a $100 tax credit for every child in Wisconsin.

“Too early to tell,” Vos said.

Fitzgerald said the plan was under discussion, as was another Walker plan to create a reinsurance program in Wisconsin.

Lincoln Hills: Republicans said they hoped to announce an agreement next week on a plan to close the troubled Lincoln Hills juvenile prison.

“My goal is to have something that there’s broad consensus,” Vos said.

Walker supports a plan by Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, that would close Lincoln Hills and move inmates to regional facilities around the state. Fitzgerald said one of the hang-ups involved whether the state or counties would run the reconfigured institutions.