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Politics & Government

Wisconsin Assembly Passes Aid to Kimberly-Clark, Child Tax Credit in Late Night Session

Justin W Kern
The state Assembly passed a flurry of bills in its final day of the year

Emotions ran high during a marathon session of the state Assembly on Thursday. In the end, lawmakers passed bills on some major hot-button issues.

One bill would give Foxconn-style tax breaks to prevent Kimberly-Clark from closing its two plants in the Fox Valley.

Another would give Wisconsin families 100 dollars for every child this fall. A third item would give everybody a sales tax holiday the first weekend in August. The discussion went until 1:00 Friday morning.

Governor Walker pushed the tax breaks for Kimberly-Clark, after the paper products giant announced a few weeks ago, that it was going to cut 600 jobs and close the two plants in Neenah and Fox Cities. He proposed a bailout for the company, similar to the tax breaks that Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn is getting for building a huge LCD screen manufacturing plant in Racine County.

Under the plan, the state would pay Kimberly-Clark $8,500 in tax credits for every worker who earns $50,000 a year. The vote in favor of the plan fell largely along party lines. Republicans said the state must take action in order to preserve these jobs. But Democrats said the move is just a political ploy, especially because Kimberly-Clark didn’t ask for the incentives and hasn’t said whether the tax breaks would even entice the company to reverse its decision to close the plants.

Other big ticket items the Assembly passed include Walker’s plan to give parents $100 for every child, just as school starts this fall. The other -- a sales tax holiday that would cover all items under $100.

Walker pushed the per-child tax credit in his state of the state address and says the money would come from a projected $170 million surplus.

Democrat Melissa Sargent blasted the bill, calling it an election year gimmick: “Today we are witnessing your last ditch effort to buy the votes of Wisconsin citizens for the low, low bargain price of $100 apiece in the upcoming election this November."

Democrats said they’d rather see the surplus spent on road repairs and public schools. Republicans defended the plan.

Republican Rep. Shannon Zimmerman of River Falls says surpluses should be given back to the taxpayers. “We can trivialize $100 and call it whatever you want to call it but this is going to go to kids, families and if you vote no on that, you are voting no to kids and families in my opinion."

The per-child tax credit and the sales tax holiday passed 61-35, along party lines. Republicans amended the sales tax holiday portion, allowing retailers to opt out if they wish. They’re hoping the change will make the bill more palatable in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has been lukewarm to the Kimberly-Clark bailout, along with the sales tax holiday and per-child tax credit.

The Assembly is done now for the year, but the Senate will come back for one final day in March.

In addition, the Assembly passed a number of law and order issues. One deals with straw gun purchases – strengthening the penalties for legally buying a firearm and then selling that weapon to somebody barred from having a gun. That bill now goes to Governor Walker.

Another item would allow teachers to terminate their contracts without penalty if they’re assaulted by a student. And, the Assembly approved borrowing $350 million to build a new adult prison, along with another measure to hire 54 additional prosecutors across the state. Those bills are now going to the Senate.