State lawmakers will gather next week for a lame duck session that was called, ostensibly, to consider a $70 million subsidy package to save hundreds of union jobs at a Kimberly-Clark Fox Valley plant. The proposal has been stalled for months and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported this week that while other bills may be considered, it’s possible that the K-C bill will not. That’s because as many as eight Republicans won’t support the bill and, to date, no Democratic support has materialized. And a stakeholder in the issue says the absence of a Wisconsin legislative legend may be the reason.
Neenah Mayor Dean Kaufert, appearing on WHBY radio in Appleton with host Josh Dukelow Wednesday, said he believed the K-C subsidy plan would have gotten done if former Senate President Mike Ellis was involved. Kaufert, a former Republican lawmaker, said if Ellis, who was retired from politics when he died in July, was involved “we wouldn’t be here today…”
I truly believe…Roger Roth (current Senate President) I hold nothing against Roger, Roger is doing a great job trying to get this done but he needs help. But Mike Ellis…my former mentor…(if he were involved) we wouldn’t be here today. Mike was the ultimate deal maker and Mike would not have let it get to this point… He would have somehow crafted a deal that either got the Republicans all on board or got the Democrats; he would have gave them a win.
See, in politics, everyone’s got to come out a winner. Because if someone’s not a winner, they’re not voting for it. And so, Mike would have been the ultimate deal maker here. Mike Ellis’ dad worked for Kimberly-Clark. And he would have done something to get this done. That’s neither hear nor there. Roger, I know, Senator Roth, is working extremely hard to meet with (Senate minority leader) Jen Shilling and (Green Bay Democratic Senator) Dave Hansen and governor-elect (Tony) Evers.
And Kaufert believes some of the other proposals to be considered by Republicans during the lame duck session aren’t helping Kimberly-Clark’s cause: “I hear the Republicans are going to come in this December and make changes to rules and things like that. You think that’s going to help the Democrats say oh, okay we’ll help you on this issue but you’re going to screw us two weeks later?”
The Journal-Sentinel reported that Republicans could consider bills to curb Evers’ powers over state rules, add GOP appointees to a state board, and possibly move the 2020 presidential primary to help a conservative state Supreme Court justice.
Roth told Media Trackers that he loved Ellis and that Ellis was very supportive of the Kimberly-Clark issue and gave Roth advice on it. But Roth said he believes “no stone has been left unturned” in efforts to get the package approved.
Kaufert told Dukelow that if Evers is inclined to support the bill, it would be helpful for him to speak up. Roth said he spoke to Evers on that point:
I spoke with Governor elect-Evers. I gave him a broad description of what the legislation was, it’s effect on family-supporting jobs in the Fox Valley and its effect on the overall economy and walk him through the Wisconsin business supply chain and what the implications are for us if we do it and if we don’t do it.
I asked him if it’s something he thought he wanted, to keep those union jobs and asked him if he would consider talking to the Democrats, even though he’s not governor, even though he doesn’t have any power over this, but asked him if he supports this.
Roth said Evers told him he would take the matter under advisement. Roth told Media Trackers that if it was something that Evers wanted to do, it would be helpful if he would indicate support for the legislature moving forward with it. Roth says he doesn’t know whether Evers supports the plan.