It appears that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is trying to keep a National Basketball Association team in Milwaukee by throwing the Bucks new owners $220 million in public financing in a public-private partnership for a new arena. There aren’t too many details but the governor wants to give a private business some taxpayers dollars while he plans to cut some public funding for the University of Wisconsin.
Walker envisions that the public payment for a new arena could come from an income tax that he would impose on Bucks players and that money would pay down the debt of the public’s portion of the new building. Walker better hope that the NBA salary cap rises at an incredible rate for the state to pay the debt on the bonds that would need to be taken out to underwrite the effort. The last time Milwaukee and Wisconsin decided to do something in sports it didn’t work out too well for State Senator George Petak. In 1995, Bud Selig’s Milwaukee Brewers baseball franchise was playing in an old stadium and Selig was lobbying Wisconsin legislators to put up public funding to help fund the ballpark Selig said he needed because the old stadium lacked revenue generators and that he might have to move his Brewers franchise without a building. Initially Petak was going to vote no on the stadium but changed his vote which raised the sales tax in Milwaukee and surrounding areas slightly. Nine months after the vote in 1996, Petak lost a recall election making him the only state senator in Wisconsin history to be recalled. Selig got his revenue generators in a new stadium in 2001 and spent money. Two years later the franchise traded off higher salaried players and the Selig family sold the team in 2005.
The arena deal is far from being done in Milwaukee. Walker is a polarizing figure in Wisconsin and there figures to be a lot of opposition to his plan. For now, the Milwaukee NBA franchise is closer to a new arena and education funding is going to be cut in Wisconsin.
This article was republished with permission from the original author and publisher, Evan Weiner.