Outgoing, Republican Gov. Scott Walker said on Tuesday that he's putting off a decision on whether to sign the controversial bills passed by GOP majorities in the legislature during last week's lame-duck session until after his administration can figure out a way to keep a Kimberly-Clark plant south of Appleton from closing.
Walker had asked lawmakers to call an extraordinary session and pass an incentive package to keep the employer in the area.
The governor said hundreds of jobs are at stake - both at the facility itself and at small business suppliers around Wisconsin who work with Kimberly-Clark.
But during last week's extraordinary session, lawmakers in the Senate failed to pass legislation pertaining to Kimberly-Clark.
"In the end, the state Senate didn't bring up the very thing I asked them to come in for," Walker said. "We were frustrated with that."
"But we’re not giving up," Walker also said. "If it’s the last thing I do over the next few weeks, we’re going to find a way to save the jobs at Kimberly-Clark. We don’t have a deal to announce yet, but we’re cautiously optimistic we’re heading in the right direction. That’s critically important. It's more important to me than any of the other things pending in state government until the end of the year."
The bills passed during last week's lame-duck session would shift duties and responsibilities from the governor and attorney general, both offices that will be occupied by Democrats next year, to leaders in the legislature.
The GOP will still hold majorities in the Assembly and Senate during the next legislative session.
Walker rejected claims by Democrats that the legislation is a Republican power grab.
He said Go-elect Tony Evers will still have powerful veto authority when he assumes office, as well as the power to propose a budget and to make a wide range of appointments - for example, to cabinet positions and judicial positions.
"The bottom line is, there's not a fundamental shift in powers," the governor said. "No matter what happens with this legislation."
Walker could sign everything into law, veto the bills, or choose to use a line-item veto on the bill, or bills, deemed to contain appropriations.
"Right now, it looks most likely that we'll do a series - at least one, if not multiple - of line-item vetoes," Walker said. "That's what we're looking at most closely, but we'll have to wait and see."
He said his team is reviewing the bills, although they have not been officially delivered to his office for a signature yet.
If Walker opts to not take any action on the bills, they would eventually kick in and become law sometime around the end of the year.
But the governor said he doesn't anticipate not acting on them.
In a statement issued on behalf of Evers Tuesday, spokesperson Britt Cudaback once again called on Walker to veto the legislation.
"The people of Wisconsin demanded a change on November 6th. Governor Walker knows this and needs to decide whether he wants the final act of his legacy to be overriding the will of the people," the statement said.
Evers' spokesperson added, "Governor-elect Evers has called on Governor Walker to do the right thing and veto this legislation. It’s time for Republicans to stop putting politics before people and to start working together with the incoming Evers administration on the pressing issues facing our state.”