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As I See It

Companies don’t even have to say please to get state help in Wisconsin

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State lawmakers are hailing it as good news. But is it? One of the largest employers in Wisconsin’s Fox Valley, Kimberly Clark, announced it would be closing two of its facilities there, putting more than 600 people out of work. This came on the heels of the historic Foxconn deal which has state taxpayers subsidizing the new jobs to be created, to the tune of $4.5 billion. Unlike Foxconn, Kimberly Clark didn’t go to the state with its hands out looking for help. But it turns out they may get it anyway. Now that United Steelworkers have agreed to a new contract, Kimberly Clark says if the state can help, those jobs will stay in the Fox Valley. The state hasn’t finalized the details of how much this will cost taxpayers, but a letter to the company from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation suggested the state would be willing to subsidize wages, as well as any capital expenditures, and would provide a sales tax exemption on those capital improvements. Add that all up, and it is an incentive package worth between $6 and $8 million a year. Over the 15 year deal the state suggests, that would be a hit to Wisconsin taxpayers of as much as $115 million. Keep in mind, the company never asked for the help, and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has a poor track record of ensuring the money it provides is actually used to create or retain jobs. And it still doesn’t have a blueprint for under what circumstances the state will step in. Apparently it is as simple as threatening to close a plant, and the state will pony up our money, even if the company never asks for it.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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