Fitzgerald urges Shilling to gauge support among Dem caucus for Kimberly-Clark incentive package

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is pressuring Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling to gauge how many of her caucus members back an incentive package for Kimberly-Clark as Gov. Scott Walker implored the chamber to pass the bill.

But Shilling, D-La Crosse, accused Fitzgerald and fellow GOP Sen. Roger Roth, one of the bill’s main backers, of trying to “pass the blame because of their inability to get this done.”

And the task of finding enough support to pass the bill took another hit with Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, now the second GOP member to publicly oppose the bill. With an 18-15 majority, Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, would need every remaining GOP vote and at least one Dem member to pass the bill.

Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, has previously said he couldn’t support the package, and Nass aide Mike Mikalsen told yesterday the lawmaker doesn’t believe it’s “sustainable to go with Foxconn-level tax credits” for Kimberly-Clark.

“We’re hearing from a lot of other places that most states are saying, ‘What are you doing? You can’t sustain this. You’re handing out credits that are above what’s considered reasonable,'” Mikalsen said.

The latest volleys on the legislation came after Gov. Scott Walker told reporters in Milwaukee yesterday he wants the Senate to come back on the bill, which has been stalled since it cleared the Assembly in February. Kimberly-Clark officials this week say they want a vote on the bill by month’s end, and Walker has taken to social media in recent days to say it needs bipartisan support to get done.

Walker spokeswoman Amy Hasenberg said the guv wouldn’t call lawmakers back for a special session. Instead, he is hoping lawmakers call themselves back in extraordinary session to finish work on the bill that’s already cleared the Assembly. She added Walker is encouraging senators to tour the Fox Valley plant that could remain open if the package is passed.

“We’d like both Democrats and Republican to come together to vote for this plan and save jobs in this state,” she said.

But Shilling Chief of Staff Kara Pennoyer said the La Crosse Dem hasn’t heard recently from Fitzgerald or Roth, whose Appleton area district includes the Kimberly-Clark plant. She added Shilling and Fitzgerald spoke last month after Republicans caucused in the Wisconsin Dells and she was told the Senate GOP wasn’t going to be able to pass the bill.

“We weren’t asked for votes, we weren’t asked to schedule a caucus or anything. We have not done so, because we’re not in charge,” she said.

After Shilling knocked the guv this morning, Fitzgerald issued a statement urging her to bring back her caucus on the legislation.

“Along with the governor’s efforts to build support for the proposal, I am continuing to work on bringing the votes together within the Republican caucus,” he said.

She fired back in a statement, “Senators Fitzgerald and Roth seem to have forgotten that they are still in the majority and are trying to pass the blame because of their inability to get this done. They have already killed this bill once, and it doesn’t look like their Republican majority is any closer to getting a deal done this time around.”

The bill the Assembly passed included Foxconn-like incentives, including a boost in tax credits for job retention to 17 percent, up from the current 7 percent. Kimberly-Clark would also get refundable tax credits for 15 percent of capital expenditures, up from the typical 10 percent, over a five-year period. The company would also get a five-year sales tax exemption on those expenditures.

Mikalsen said Nass believes Foxconn was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring a new industry to Wisconsin. He had hoped lawmakers could consider a smaller package of credits for Kimberly-Clark, but was told if the Senate came back, it would be to take up the Assembly bill.

“Fiscally the state can’t provide this to all,” Mikalsen said.