Wis. Gov. Evers vetoes mill bill

The bill would have allocated Covid funds to an effort to purchase shuttered mills

This story has been updated.

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers vetoed a $65,000,000 bill that would have allocated money from federal Covid relief funding to finance the purchase of the Verso paper mill in Wisconsin Rapids and the Park Falls (Wisconsin) pulp and paper mill.

Both mills closed during the pandemic and Verso cited a drop in demand due to the pandemic when it announced the June, 2020 closure. But Evers’ veto message cited other stresses on the paper industry in recent years and asserted that the provisions of the American Rescue Plan of 2020 (ARPA) might not allow use for funding the mill purchases.

“First, it is not clear that the U.S. Department of the Treasury will permit ARPA funds to be used for this purpose,” said the veto statement, noting that it might be “insufficiently tied to the impacts of the pandemic.” Evers also noted that ARPA funds are only available to December 31, 2024, which may not be long enough for the type of financing required for these acquisitions.

Mayor Shane Blaser of Wisconsin Rapids said that he was disappointed with the veto.

"No bill is ever perfect," said Blaser, "There's always some flaw. There's always somebody that may not support a part of a bill and, you know, this was truly an opportunity that potentially could put two communities, hopefully, reset them back and help them get back.”

State Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) told WAOW-TV, “The closure of these mills disrupted the state supply chains for the paper, pulp and forestry industries….our attention and action are very much still needed.”

Evers said there is sufficient funding available in the state’s general fund. “I support efforts to provide long-term relief to Wisconsin’s vital paper industry and workers at the Wisconsin Rapids and Park Falls mills.

Previous story.

MADISON, Wis. -- A bill to allow the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to loan money for two business cooperatives to purchase the huge Verso paper mill and a smaller mill in Park Falls passed the Wisconsin Assembly on a 65 to 37 vote on June 22.

The bill was sponsored by nine members of the Wisconsin assembly and three Wisconsin senators, all Republicans.

A bipartisan amendment intended to increase the odds the money for the measure would be eligible for federal Covid relief funding and for loan funding from the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands was not taken up by the assembly.

The measure will have to be passed by the Wisconsin Senate and signed by Governor Tony Evers to become law. Evers expressed that the bipartisan amendment was not passed by the assembly. He called the omission “disappointing”.

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