‘Mill Bill’ reaches Evers office, signature unsecured | WSAU News / Talk 550 AM99.9 FM

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Verso factory in Wisconsin Rapids. CMM photo by Mike Leischner

WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) – A bill that would require the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to issue millions in short-term loans to two groups seeking to restart idle Wisconsin Rapids and Park Falls paper mills faces uncertainty after reaching Governor Evers’ office this week.

State Representative Scott Krug of Nekoosa said it shouldn’t be so, but after a bipartisan vote in the assembly, Senate Democrats opposed the proposal.

“That puts a little bit of concern in there,” Krug said. “But, he’s just sitting on the governor’s desk right now waiting for what I call the right pen instead of the wrong pen.” That’s all that has to happen to save those jobs in Park Falls and Wisconsin Rapids.

Evers and his team proposed two amendments to the bill that would have changed where the funding comes from. The first was an amendment to use a different amount for funds while making the loan a low interest, forgivable loan. Krug says that when they discussed the idea in committee, they found out that WEDC may not have actually had these funds available for the project.

“We actually called the finance office to see how much WEDC had, and the response was zero. This amendment was essentially a poison pill that would have suspended this measure altogether. We did not accept this amendment. And the state of Wisconsin is not seeking forgivable loans to new business entities. This is something we want skin on in the game, we want to make sure they get private funding, ”Krug said.

As it is written, the funding for the loans would come from the state’s share of American Recovery Act dollars. He adds that the groups also want to use the funds as term money while securing larger investments, meaning the money would be returned to the state quickly and could then be redistributed in other ways. Essentially, allowing the state to get a “two for one” on the money before it has to be spent in 2024.

“This bill says that these dollars must return to the state by 2024 so that they can be reused. When Governor Evers tells us we’re taking that investment away from other things in Wisconsin, that’s pure whooping cough. These dollars will be returned to him so that he can deliver elsewhere in the state of Wisconsin in any form he wishes before the deadline set by the federal government, ”Krug said.

Verso idled the plant a year ago, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a decision factor. The Park Falls plant was also recently inactive after being acquired by new owners.

State Senator Patrick Testin, whose district also includes part of the Wisconsin Rapids, also expressed uncertainty about the future of the bill and encouraged residents to leave messages for the governor asking him to sign measurement.

Krug and Testin both spoke at an event in Wausau promoting the proposed two-year state budget.

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