Mill Bill heads to governor’s desk
By Gazette staff
MADISON – A bill authored by Sen. Patrick Testin (Stevens Point) and Rep. Scott Krug (town of Rome), designed to help restart the Verso Mill, passed in the state Senate on June 30, after passing the Assembly on June 22.
The bill is designed to allow for the use of federal pandemic stimulus/relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 to create a loan to aid in the mill’s purchase. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) would be the entity making the loan.
Assembly Bill No. 367 would provide a $50 million loan to a buyer for the Wisconsin Rapids paper mill and a $15 million loan to a buyer for the Park Falls paper mill. Both mills are currently idle.
“This bill earned support from members of both parties,” said Testin. “They stood with Rep. Krug and with me to support the families who depend on logging and paper-making for a living. I hope Governor Evers will sign this bill and not turn his back on folks in Central and Northern Wisconsin.”
“Governor Evers recently distributed ARPA funds in the form of grants to movie theaters, live-event venues, summer camps, and other tourism related businesses. I’m glad that the tourism industry is getting much-needed help, but our paper and timber industries deserve to be priorities as well.”
After passing the Senate by a vote of 20-12 the bill heads to Governor Tony Evers’ desk.
“This bill did meet with some opposition,” Krug noted, “Some in the legislature have asserted that this proposal may be a non-allowable use of federal stimulus money. However, none of our critics can point to anything in writing. I call on Governor Evers to sign this bill and give our proposal a chance to do good for Wisconsin,” Krug said.
Representative Krug is asking supporters of the bill to email Governor Evers and ask that he sign the bill into law. A website has been set up to assist with this at https://legis.wisconsin.gov/rapidstogether/contact-the-governor.
“Anyone in Wisconsin can write Governor Evers to support this bill,” he added.
“The idling of our city’s paper mill has already had a profound financial and social impact on our community, our region and our state. This bill poses an opportunity to inspire hope in our community while bringing back family-sustaining jobs and ensuring our paper professionals’ expertise stays local. Now is the time to act on this bill,“ said Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Shane Blaser.
Blaser’s office also stated that “an estimated 2,686 jobs statewide are affected by the idling of the Wisconsin Rapids paper mill, which creates lost earnings for Wisconsin’s people and lost tax revenues for Wisconsin’s municipalities. The Wisconsin Rapids paper mill also consumed one-quarter of the pulpwood cut annually in Wisconsin, advancing timber and transportation industries throughout the state, while making an important impacton Wisconsin forestry.”
The Verso mill was the largest employer in Wisconsin Rapids, with 905 employees, until June 2020 when the mill was idled.