Monday, February 5, 2018

As NE WIsconsin layoffs multiply, Walker offers bailout money we don't have

After a slate of layoffs and plant closings at paper products plants in Northeastern Wisconsin, the few elected Democrats in the area had seen enough, and are promoting a bill that would help those industries and retain jobs in the 920.
Following the loss or announced loss of 1,400 jobs over the last five months in the Fox Cities alone, the legislators said in a Monday morning press conference that they’ll submit a bill that will help stop the bleeding of jobs.

The Papermaker Fund bill asks the state to dedicate 1 percent of the Foxconn investment, or $30 million, to each of two programs, to help mills retrofit to make more desirable paper grades and make energy efficiency upgrades.

“Why do we give $4.5 billion ($3 billion in state contributions plus TIF and TID funds) to Foxconn? It’s the biggest giveaway in U.S. history and it’s the biggest boondoggle,” said State Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay.

"I understand that if the state of Wisconsin can muster $3 billion for a foreign company, it can spare 1 percent for one of its own. We need to help the home team. That's why we're here today,” said Tom Nelson, Outagamie County executive.
The recent facility closings at Appleton Coated, Appvion, US Paper Converters and Kimberly-Clark are bad enough. But then combine it with more pink slips coming at non-paper businesses in the area like Jackson National Life Insurance and Younkers stores in Appleton, Marinette and Manitowoc, and you have serious setbacks concentrated in one part of the state.

Which makes this take from the Assembly's Number 2 Republican doesn't sound so smart 8 days later.

Governor Walker clearly saw some awful polling on these issues, because minutes before the NE Wisconsin Dems announced their plan, Walker decided that Kimberly-Clark was worthy of the Foxconn treatment.
The governor said he would work with the Legislature to approve an increase in the tax credits available for job retention from 7 percent in current law to 17 percent – the same percentage used to attract Foxconn's historic investment in Wisconsin.

"The paper industry is vital to Wisconsin's economy. The State of Wisconsin has been working closely with our local and regional economic development partners to get a better understanding of Kimberly-Clark's decision and make a strong case for the company to retain its operations in the Fox Valley," Governor Walker said. "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."

Under current law, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is allowed to offer job retention credits of up to 7 percent of a company's payroll under its Enterprise Zone Program. Special legislation approved last year created a new WEDC program that raised that figure to 17 percent as part of the incentives for Foxconn. Governor Walker is proposing similar action be taken for Kimberly-Clark.
Weird thought here Guv, but maybe you should have thought about helping Kimberly-Clark BEFORE THEY CLOSED THE PLANT AND LAID ALL THESE PEOPLE OFF. Just like with Oscar Mayer’s closing, Walker and the “nimble, flexible” WEDC were clearly sleeping at the wheel and offered nothing until the layoffs were announced. Why? Did they not donate enough to get WEDC’s attention?

And by the way Scotty, where would we come up with this money to pay for this expanded WEDC giveaway? As I mentioned last week, we don’t have enough funding to pay for all of the Walker and WisGOP initiatives announced in the last week, and any money used for that increases our already-sizable structural deficit for 2019-21. Now you’re thinking of throwing some kind of unknown mega-millions for K-C on top of it?

As a side note, some might even ask why are we spending millions on a dying paper industry in the first place! I’m not one of them, as I think there’s a value in making products in Wisconsin and we should encourage these jobs to stay here and pay good wages (by the way, why hasn’t right-to-work saved these jobs, WisGOP?). But maybe we do need to work on new-knowledge manufacturing and improving quality of life in NE Wisconsin over the next 10 years to let people down easier and allow a much smoother transition over time.

But the panic is definitely setting in with these job losses, both in NE Wisconsin and at the Governor’s Office, as it is messing up the GOP 2018 election campaign plan of happy-talk and con(fidence) games. Many people in Wisconsin already see through the sham of trickle-down and aren’t much better off after 8 years of corporate tax cuts, austerity and wage suppression. And there’s no real GOP plan to turn around this decline, other than panicky adoptions of Dem ideas which is funded by tax money that may not exist in a year.

Assembly Dem Leader Gordon Hintz from Oshkosh was also at the Dems' announcement of the Papermake Fund, and rightfully called out Walker'incompetent flailing.

To stabilize the NE Wisconsin economy, we need to be smart, not political here. But I’m not counting on much coherence from a grifter Guv who has always cared more about politics than legitimate economic growth. So instead, maybe you folks in the 920 can stop voting GOP for a cycle, and get some Dems in power who might have a clue about growing the economy and helping your community for the long term.


  1. Remember— Jim Doyle kept Mercury Marine in Fond Du Lac. Just sayin’.

  2. And Scott Walker is insistent that he is no Jim Doyle, so....

  3. How much does Kimberly-Clark pay now in Wisconsin taxes? I thought businesses were down to contributing next to nothing to the common welfare after Governor Walker's "Open for Business" tax cuts (paid for by cheating the schools and stealing money from the pockets of teachers, state workers, the poor and the elderly)?