Governor vetoes Mill Bill
By Gazette Staff
MADISON – On July 8, Governor Tony Evers vetoed Assembly Bill No. 367, which was designed to provide assistance in restarting the Wisconsin Rapids Verso mill.
The bill, authored by Sen. Patrick Testin (Stevens Point) and Rep. Scott Krug (town of Rome), passed in the state Senate on June 30, after passing the Assembly on June 22.
The bill would have allowed 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.
AB No. 367 would have provided 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.
Evers said he vetoed the bill “because I object to using ARPA funding for this purpose when the state has sufficient GPR funding to support the project and ARPA is not a reliable funding source to provide the long-term assistance needed to revive these mills and provide stable jobs to their workers. First, it is not clear that the U.S. Department of Treasury will permit ARPA funds to be used for this purpose. Treasury’s Interim Final Rule governing ARPA eligibility requires that assistance provided to businesses must respond to the negative economic impacts of COVID-19. Because many mills were experiencing significant financial difficulties prior to the COVID- 19 pandemic as a result of long-term economic and industrial trends in this sector, the federal government may view the assistance as insufficiently tied to the impacts of the pandemic. Second, ARPA funds are only available for use through Dec. 31, 2024, limiting their flexibility for the type of long-term loans needed by potential purchasers of the mills.
“If a project was legislatively mandated and later deemed ineligible, the state would have to return the funds to the federal government. It is inappropriate to use a funding source that presents such risks and challenges when the state is in a strong financial position, sufficient GPR is available, and using state resources would provide greater flexibility on agreement terms and lower risk to the state.”
“With this veto, Governor Evers turned his back on thousands of families and jobs in Central and Northern Wisconsin – but he still has the opportunity to do the right thing,” Testin said in response to the action. “He has the authority to allocate these ARPA funds to help the mill – something Rep. Krug and I asked him to do more than a month ago. It’s past time for him to act.”