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Evers Vetoes Mill Bill

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Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a bill Thursday that would have allocated $65 million in federal funds for loans to purchase paper mills in Park Falls and Wisconsin Rapids.

In his veto message, Evers said he supports efforts to provide long-term relief to Wisconsin’s paper industry.

However, he objects to using federal COVID relief money from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to fund the loans.

He gave two main reasons for this objection.

First, he said it’s possible the U.S. Department of Treasury won’t let the ARPA funds be used for this purpose, since many paper mills were struggling even before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Second, the funds are only available for the next two and a half years, which Evers said is not ideal for the long-term loans needed to purchase the mills.

Instead of using federal ARPA funds, Evers recommended using money generated through state taxes.

He said there are enough state funds available to fund the loans needed to restart the mills, and state funds would be more reliable and flexible.

Evers said he would welcome a bill to support restarting the paper mills, so long as the legislature finds a different source of funding.

Regardless of whether the legislature and governor come to an agreement, the cooperatives looking to purchase the idled paper mills still plan to move ahead with those efforts.

Co-op Administrator Don Peterson spoke with WXPR for a story earlier this month.

“We would welcome that funding from the state, but we’re not counting on it,” Peterson said. “We started this process before this bill was even talked about. If it comes to fruition, we would be extremely grateful. If it doesn’t, we’re going to work towards purchasing both mills anyhow.”

The cooperative model would split ownership of the paper mills between mill workers, loggers and industry allies.

No other paper mills in the U.S. are owned by a cooperative, but there is a successful co-op running a paper mill in Quebec, Canada.

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