News of the Day

Kimberly-Clark to Keep Cold Spring Facility Open in Wisconsin

Kimberly-Clark and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) have agreed to terms on a five-year agreement that will provide the company with up to $28 million in tax incentives and allow it to continue operations at its Cold Spring facility in Fox Crossing.

Under the terms of the agreement, Kimberly-Clark will retain 388 technical manufacturing jobs with an annual payroll of over $30 million at the facility. The company will also continue to support hundreds of businesses across the state that supply approximately $56 million in goods and services to the facility annually. In addition, Kimberly-Clark will invest up to $200 million in the Neenah Cold Spring Facility over the next five years to fuel continued innovation and growth.

“We have been working diligently over the last few months to ensure that Kimberly-Clark, a company with a long legacy in a key Wisconsin industry, will continue to have a strong presence in the Fox Valley. We are also pleased that Kimberly-Clark is making the commitment to continue to invest and grow in our state for years to come,” said Governor Scott Walker, who joined company officials Thursday in announcing the plans.  “Keeping longstanding businesses in our state is just as important as attracting new ones. This agreement is a win for Wisconsin and the company, but more importantly for the employees at Kimberly-Clark and the many businesses and communities who rely on the company for their partnership and support.”

“Wisconsin has been an important home for Kimberly-Clark since 1872, and we are grateful for the many proactive efforts to create an economic situation that would allow us to keep the Cold Spring facility open,” said John Dietrich, Vice President of Global Manufacturing for Kimberly-Clark. “We look forward to continuing our 146-year commitment to making lives better for our consumers, and to continue being a strong corporate citizen in Wisconsin.”

To ensure that Kimberly-Clark remains in Wisconsin, WEDC is awarding the company up to $28 million in state income tax incentives over the next five years. The full amount of credits can be earned if the company retains all of its 388 employees through 2023 and makes at least $200 million in capital investment at the Cold Spring facility over that time. The company can also earn tax credits based on how much it purchases in goods and services from Wisconsin companies.

The tax incentives are performance-based, which means the company must first carry out the terms of the agreement and provide supporting documentation before it can receive any tax credits.


Governor Walker Signals Support for Lame-Duck Bills

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday shared a list of criteria he said he will use to evaluate a set of proposals passed quickly in a lame-duck session last week, weighing in publicly for the first time since the legislation was approved by the Republican-led Legislature.

Walker said he will evaluate the bills based on a set of “reasonable” and “straightforward” criteria. He said he will look to determine whether the legislation improves transparency, increases accountability, affirms stability and protects the taxpayers.

Walker did not share a timeline for when he will make a decision, but his comments indicated support for several measures contained in the extraordinary session bills. If the governor does not call for the bills beforehand, they will arrive on his desk Dec. 20. He would then have six days, not including Sunday, to act on them. He could sign them or veto them in whole or in part. If he takes no action, they will become law as if he had signed them.


Governor-elect Evers Announces Agriculture, Energy, and Natural Resources Policy Advisory Council

Yesterday, Governor-elect Tony Evers announced his Agriculture, Energy, and Natural Resources Policy Advisory Council. The Council will work directly with the transition team on identifying strategies to protect Wisconsin’s natural resources, strengthen our agricultural industries, and work toward clean energy innovation.

“We’re going to bring science back to decision-making in Wisconsin,” Evers said. “Whether it’s ensuring we have clean drinking water, protecting our natural resources, standing up for our family dairy farms, or investing in clean, renewable energy, we have to get to work on addressing these issues that affect our kids and our future.”

The Agriculture, Energy, and Natural Resources Policy Advisory Council includes:

Dee Allen, Lac du Flambeau Tribal Natural Resources Department
Lauren Azar, Former Wisconsin Public Service Commissioner
Spencer Black, Former Chair, Wisconsin State Assembly Natural Resources Committee
Dave Clausen, Veterinarian; Former Department of Natural Resources Board Chair
Preston Cole, Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services
Paul DeLong, American Forest Foundation
John Dickert, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative
Tom Hauge, Formerly of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Tyler Huebner, RENEW Wisconsin
Mary Jean Huston, The Nature Conservancy
Bruce Keyes, Menomonee Valley Partners, Inc.
Matt Krueger, Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association
Kim Marotta, Molson Coors
Peter McAvoy, UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences
Ron McDonald, Valley Transit
Ashwat Narayanan, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin
Tia Nelson, Outrider Foundation
Kara O’Connor, Wisconsin Farmers Union
Mark Redsten, Clean Wisconsin
Brian Rude, Dairyland Power Cooperative
Kerry Schumann, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters
Dan Smith, Cooperative Network
Rebekah Sweeney, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association
Christine Thomas, UW-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources Dean
Adam Warthesen, Organic Valley

Governor-elect Tony Evers Announce Next Generation Workforce and Economic Development Policy Advisory Council

Today, Governor-elect Tony Evers and Lt. Governor-elect Mandela Barnes announced their
Next Generation Workforce and Economic Development Policy Advisory Council bringing experienced economic development stakeholders from across Wisconsin to work with the transition team on creating an economy that works for everyone.

“More than 800,000 families in Wisconsin can’t afford basic necessities. Investing in an economy that creates good-paying, family-supporting jobs for the people of Wisconsin is a top priority for our administration,” said Evers.

“Our Next Generation Workforce and Economic Development Policy Advisory Council will help our transition team put together a comprehensive plan to support working families and
foster an economic climate that attracts and retains a talented workforce.”

The Next Generation Workforce and Economic Development Policy Advisory Council includes:

• Masood Akhtar, CleanTech Partners
• Jan Allman, Marinette Marine
• Stephanie Bloomingdale, AFL-CIO
• Zach Brandon, Greater Madison
• Julie Cayo, EMPLOY Milwaukee
• Tina Chang, SysLogic and MMAC Board Member
• Bruce Colburn, Amalgamated Transit Union
• Kevin Conroy, Exact Sciences
• Paul Ehrfurth, Oconto County Economic Development Corp.
• Morna Foy, Wisconsin Technical College System
• Roberta Gassman, Former Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary
• Sarah Godlewski, State Treasurer-Elect
• Betsey Harries, Ashland Area Development Corporation
• Paul Jadin, Madison Region Economic Partnership
• Joe Kirgues, Gener8tor
• Kim Kohlhaas, AFT-Wisconsin

• Juan Jose Lopez,  Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County
• Terry McGowan, International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 139
• Bob Meyer, UW-Stout
• Mahlon Mitchell, Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin
• Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Voces de la Frontera
• Saul Newton, Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce
• Chuck Pruitt, ABD Direct
• Lisa Pugh, ARC Wisconsin
• Jason Rae, Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce
• Peter Rickman, Milwaukee Area Service & Hospitality Workers Organization
• Joel Rogers, COWS
• Joanne Sabir, Sherman Phoenix, Juice Kitchen, and Shindig Cafe
• Michael Waite, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
• Dean Warsh, IBEW, Local 494

Total Non-Farm Payroll Employment Increased by 155,000 in November, Unemployment Rate Remains at 3.7%

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 155,000 in November, and the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.  Job gains occurred in health care, in manufacturing, and in transportation and warehousing.

In November, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 6 cents to $27.35. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by 81 cents, or 3.1 percent. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 7 cents to $22.95 in November.

Both the labor force participation rate, at 62.9 percent, and the employment-population ratio, at 60.6  percent, were unchanged in November

In Marathon Session, Wisconsin Legislature Passes Amended Lame Duck Bills

After a marathon-and-a-half floor session that extended deep into the new day, Senate Republicans on a party-line vote passed a watered-down version of extraordinary session legislation aimed at protecting the Gov. Scott Walker-era reforms of the past eight years.

The Republican-controlled Assembly continued to debate remaining measures as Wisconsin began the work days but was expected to pass legislation that the GOP majority says will restore balance to the co-equal branches and Democrats breathlessly insist will “subvert the will of the people.”

All eyes — and pressure — now turn to outgoing two-term Gov. Scott Walker, who has signaled he will sign the bills, which include more legislative oversight of the executive branch but also deliver on limited-government reforms and one final round of tax relief.

Republicans say their bills are about securing the Legislature’s equal powers in what are constitutionally supposed to be the co-equal branches of government.

Democrats argue the legislation robs Evers and Kaul of rightful executive branch powers before they take their oaths of office.

Trump Administration Recommends Postal Reforms that Could Raise Package Shipping Rates

The Trump administration on Tuesday called on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to make sweeping reforms that could raise shipping rates for certain packages. The administration’s USPS task force said in a new report that the changes are needed to bring in more revenue for the cash-strapped Postal Service, which reported $3.9 billion in losses in fiscal 2018.

The Treasury Department-led task force said the Postal Service should be able to charge higher rates for e-commerce goods and other packages deemed “nonessential,” which are a fast-growing part of the USPS’s business.

The report recommends mail and package shipments be divided into essential and commercial service categories. Many online retail shipments would fall into the latter category, which would not be protected by existing price caps and thus be subject to rate increases.

It also calls on the USPS to redefine what should be covered by the universal service obligation, which requires the Postal Service to deliver everywhere in the U.S. Under the administration’s proposal, most commercial packages would not be covered by that obligation.

The report was not limited to package policies and covered several other areas where the task force believes the USPS could shore up its finances.

It called on the Postal Service to restructure massive prepayments of employee retirement and health benefits, which business groups say is the main driver of its fiscal woes. But it stopped short of endorsing bipartisan legislation that would dramatically scale back the prepayments, saying that doing so would place too much of a burden on taxpayers.

The task force is also recommending that the USPS strengthen its internal management, giving more power to the board of governors to set fiscal targets and allowing the PRC to enforce stricter rules if the goals are not met.

It declined to endorse privatizing the Postal Service, a proposal that was initially floated by the administration earlier this year as part of a broader plan to reorganize the federal government.

Senior administration officials say the Postal Service and Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) would be able to change package rates without an act of Congress.

Joint Finance Committee Approves Changes to Executive Power, Assembly, Senate Votes Set for Tuesday

Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee approved a sweeping series of bills to narrow the window for early voting and strip the executive branch of several powers, capping a day of heated public testimony and protests over the plans. The bills deal with a slew of policy issues, from transportation to taxes, but they are largely aimed at prohibiting Gov.-elect Tony Evers from rolling back several Walker administration policies.

The proposals are set to come to the Assembly and Senate floors Tuesday, where they will be voted on by lawmakers before being considered by outgoing Gov. Scott Walker.

Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, who co-chairs the committee, said that of the 45 proposals the committee voted on, nearly half were considered by the Legislature previously or fortifies rules that already exist.

“Many of these proposals have already been vetted,” he said.

Nygren emphasized the bills were needed to “equalize power” and enforce the balance of each branch of state government.

“It’s my belief these measures move us in that direction,” he said. He noted that Republicans may have made mistakes in not enforcing balance between branches before November’s election.

“We realize that we are setting a precedent here and making change that are going to affect future Republican governors as well,” he said.

Democrats blasted the bills.

“Never before in the history of our state have we seen an extraordinary session that takes away powers of a newly elected governor to this extent,” said Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison.

President Reaches Temporary Trade Agreement with China

The President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, and President Xi Jinping of China, have just concluded what both have said was a “highly successful meeting” between themselves and their most senior representatives in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

On Trade, President Trump has agreed that on January 1, 2019, he will leave the tariffs on $200 billion worth of product at the 10% rate, and not raise it to 25% at this time. China will agree to purchase a not yet agreed upon, but very substantial, amount of agricultural, energy, industrial, and other product from the United States to reduce the trade imbalance between our two countries. China has agreed to start purchasing agricultural product from our farmers immediately.

President Trump and President Xi have agreed to immediately begin negotiations on structural changes with respect to forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft, services and agriculture. Both parties agree that they will endeavor to have this transaction completed within the next 90 days. If at the end of this period of time, the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the 10% tariffs will be raised to 25%

President Trump Signs New Trade Deal with Canada and Mexico

In a major political win at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, President Trump joined Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Friday to sign a new trade agreement replacing NAFTA.

Saying that all three countries will benefit from the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Trump said “it is probably the largest trade deal ever made.”

The USMCA replaces NAFTA, which in 1994 had created a free trade zone between the three countries.

Trudeau said the deal “lifts the risk of serious economic uncertainty that lingers throughout a trade renegotiation process — uncertainty that would have only gotten worse and more damaging if we had not reached a new NAFTA.”

The deal emerged in early October, months after Trump hit Mexico and Canada with tariffs on their steel and aluminum products – a move set off retaliatory tariffs and negotiations to create a new trade pact.

The USMCA — which overhauls the rules covering more than $1.2 trillion in regional commerce — faces major hurdles next year in Congress, where Democrats will control the House and may be reluctant to help Trump to fulfill a 2016 campaign promise.

The deal also must be ratified by lawmakers in all three countries.

And even as Trump, Trudeau and Peña Nieto — on his final day in office —signed the accord on the sidelines of the summit, officials from the three countries continued to haggle over terms for lifting US tariffs, according to The Washington Post.