Fitzgerald: ‘Significant’ Dem support needed for Kimberly-Clark bill

Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he expects there are “maybe” 10 or 11 Senate Republican votes for the Kimberly-Clark bill.

The Juneau Republican has long said the incentive package would need Dem support to pass the Senate. But Tuesday was the first time he made clear how short Republicans were of the 17 votes needed to pass the bill, which would provide the company Foxconn-like incentives to keep open a plant in the Fox Valley.

“So it’s going to take a significant amount of Democrat votes to get this through,” the Juneau Republican told reporters after Tuesday’s caucus, adding that bill author and Senate President Roger Roth has reached out to Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling and other Dems about the package.

Fitzgerald says he thinks Shilling and the labor unions are both “aware of that number,” adding that the unions have also been contacting Dem senators.

Shilling, D-La Crosse, slammed Republicans, accusing them of using the Kimberly-Clark bill as political cover for a lame-duck session to take up other legislation.

“They haven’t made any effort to build consensus and reach an agreement to keep these jobs in Wisconsin,” Shilling said. “Instead, this whole special session has been a ruse to rush through more partisan bills, rig elections and consolidate more power in the hands of Republican politicians.”

While Gov. Scott Walker has previously said he believes the company will shut down the Fox Valley plant unless the the Legislature approves the bill by month’s end, Fitzgerald countered the timeline is “not going to run out” on the legislation during the upcoming session.

Roth said he’s had “really good conversations” with both Dems and Republicans in the Senate who aren’t on board with the Kimberly-Clark bill.

But the Appleton Republican said he hasn’t secured any additional commitments to back the legislation and seconded Fitzgerald’s belief that Republicans were at least a half-dozen votes short of the 17 needed. Republicans now have an 18-15 majority in the Senate, and three GOP members have publicly declared their opposition to the bill.

Dems have complained they are now being pushed to back legislation they had no input on drafting and have suggested alternatives to the package now before lawmakers.

Roth said GOP backers of the incentives rushed to put something together in the hopes of keeping the plant open. If he could go back, Roth said he would’ve included Dems in the process. Still, he wasn’t sure the bill would look any differently if it had input from those on the other side of the aisle, saying what’s now before lawmakers is the only thing that could keep the plant open.

“I don’t want to rain on whatever ideas they have,” Roth said of his Dem colleagues. “All I’m saying is this is the only bill that can save Kimberly-Clark.”

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