Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Why a Regional Tax is Needed

A regional tax for amenities like Milwaukee’s zoo and art museum is needed. Will they benefit from effort to help the Milwaukee Bucks?

By - Oct 30th, 2013 12:56 pm

Up until the 1960s the Milwaukee Public Museum was a city institution, financed by Milwaukee taxpayers. Recognizing that many of its patrons came from beyond the city, local governmental leaders agreed to transfer the museum from the city to Milwaukee County and its broader tax base.

Logically, as suburban sprawl continued, it would have made sense to create a metropolitan tax of some kind to support the public museum. Today, just 44 percent of the museum’s patrons come from Milwaukee County, with the rest coming mostly from other areas of Wisconsin, particularly Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington and Racine counties. Yet the only tax support comes from Milwaukee County, which continues to provide $3.5 million in annual operating costs, even after the museum became semi-privatized.

Or consider the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, which has for years performed at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, which gets about $1 million in annual support from Milwaukee County, thereby lowering the cost of rent for the symphony. For years the MSO also got funding from the county arts fund, which was eliminated year ago.

But the symphony is not a Milwaukee County institution. Its own analysis of ticket buyers shows it draws heavily from six zip codes in Waukesha and Ozaukee counties, from Mequon, Thiensville, Brookfield, Menomonee Falls, Pewaukee, New Berlin and Elm Grove. It also has lots of fans coming from Racine County. But no tax support comes from any of these places.

Giraffes at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Photo by Alison Peterson.

Giraffes at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Photo by Alison Peterson.

Milwaukee County provides $5 million in annual funding for the Milwaukee County zoo, but just 43 percent of patrons come from the county, its statistics show. Most of the rest come from other Wisconsin counties. Milwaukee County provides $1.1 million in annual funding to the Milwaukee Art Museum but its statistics show that 55 to 60 percent of its customers come from beyond the county. And 60 percent of the patrons for the Marcus Center come from beyond the county, its president and CEO Paul Mathews says, with “the bulk of it” coming from the surrounding region, he adds. That would include patrons for the Milwaukee Ballet and Florentine Opera, which probably also draw heavily from beyond this county.

Beyond the question of who benefits from these amenities, there is also the question of the prestige they bring to the Milwaukee metro area. Companies help recruit executives here not just by noting the presence of major league ball teams, but by selling its major league status culturally. The Public Museum has had a national and even international reputation for the quality of its exhibitions, the symphony has toured internationally to great acclaim, the zoo in considered one of the nation’s best and the art museum’s Calatrava addition is an international calling card.

Most business leaders are well aware of all this, yet the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce has never shown any interest in finding regional support for the state’s foremost symphony orchestra, zoo, natural history museum or art museum. (And to that list we could add the state’s foremost ballet and opera companies and foremost theater, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.)

But now, in the latest effort to find some way to build a new NBA arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, the MMAC has created a Cultural and Entertainment Capital Needs Task Force, whose 48 members were announced last week. The task force will look at whether the 25-year-old BMO Harris Bradley Center needs to be replaced, but also at the needs of other Milwaukee amenities, including the zoo, public museum, art museum and Marcus Center.

The emphasis is on facilities. Thus, even though the Bradley Center works quite well for its other tenants, like the Milwaukee Admirals and the Marquette Golden Eagles, and only needs to be replaced in order to generate more revenue for the Bucks, those pushing for its replacement try to maintain the fiction that this is all about upgrading a community facility. Going with that theme, any funding for a group like the symphony, which does have a representative on the task force, would only come indirectly through its performances at the Marcus Center (or might be used to help the symphony build its own hall, a long-discussed project that was put on hold once again in light of the symphony’s current financial problems).

I do attend arts events in Milwaukee but am also a big fan of NBA basketball. I’d certainly hate to lose the Bucks. But when it comes to a regional tax of some kind, two things are worth noting. All of the regional attractions the task force will look at are non-profits that governments have traditionally supported, with the idea the benefits go to the surrounding community. The Bucks are a for-profit company whose value and profits will rise significantly with a new arena, yet none of that money will go to the taxpayers. The bailout for the Bucks will benefit a millionaire owner and millionaire ballplayers. Subsidies for the zoo or symphony or museum go to non-profits that pay very low salaries.

I can hear sports fans replying, yes, but the Bucks have a big spin-off in terms of dollars spent on restaurants and bars and some hotel nights. The reality is that if you added up the symphony and art museum and zoo and all the other non-profit cultural institutions in Milwaukee, their total attendance would dwarf that for the Bucks. And yes, these audiences do spend on restaurants and the like. (I might add that over the last 20 years, these groups have had a much higher winning percentage than the Bucks.)

Finally, one other major difference: these cultural groups have far smaller needs and would deliver more bang for the buck than the Bucks. Yet everyone knows the vast majority of any money raised by this task force will go for a new NBA arena. (And that won’t be easy to do, as I’ve previously reported.)

Back in 1988, the citizens of metro Denver passed a referendum by a three-to-one majority creating a six-county regional sales tax of just one-tenth of one percent to create a Scientific and Cultural Facilities District. About 75 percent of the money provided regional funding for the Denver zoo, art museum, botanical gardens and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, with 25 percent of the money going to the six counties who distribute it to smaller cultural groups. Yet the campaign sold the tax by emphasizing the most popular attraction, the zoo.

The MMAC, however, is looking more towards the Oklahoma City model. The city used a one percent sales tax to raise $2 billion to build an NBA arena and pay for other civic improvements. As Rich Kirchen and the Business Journal reported, this has been the model for MMAC leader Tim Sheehy.

My guess is that any regional tax will be a tough sell, but more citizens would probably be interested in saving the giraffes at the zoo than the those playing for the Bucks.

With that in mind you can expect a lot of discussion of two revenue sources, including the five-county Miller Park stadium tax. As one stadium district insider predicted to me, the tax will never sunset. Civic leaders know how hard it was to pass a tax like this, and will do everything to keep it going, I suspect, if only to make sure the Brewers stay here forever. Some would also love to find a way to extend it to the Bucks. And only the legislature, not the counties who pay for it, can kill this tax.

The other “stealth tax” is the hotel rooms tax, car rental tax and .5 percent sales tax on prepared food and beverages collected by the Wisconsin Center District to help support the downtown convention center and the Visit Milwaukee tourism office. The convention center is also a regional entity and its taxes tend to fall on tourists, so there would probably be less resistance to increasing it. But of course the Wisconsin Center District would want to use that money to grow a bigger convention center.

Meanwhile there are two ongoing studies that will be very relevant to this discussion. The Public Policy Forum will soon finish a study of the needs and impact of Milwaukee cultural groups, which will likely provide information that could help create a campaign for some kind of regional funding. And Visit Milwaukee and the Wisconsin Center District are co-sponsoring a study of the convention center and the impact of expanding it.

I’ve long been a skeptic of a Bucks’ bailout, but such an effort would be far more palatable for me and others if it included other important Milwaukee attractions.

The good news is that the MMAC task force looks fairly broadly based. And the PPF and Wisconsin Center District studies will provide information that will allow the broadest possible look at this issue. With the right structure and the right funding, Milwaukee could become a regional powerhouse when it comes to cultural and entertainment venues. But it will require inspired leadership from business leaders living beyond the county to help sell this campaign regionally.

34 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Why a Regional Tax is Needed”

  1. Very true that the Bucks will benefit the most from a new arena. The best way to direct a portion of that upside for the public sector is to capture the increased value of publicly-owned land in the Park East that will result from a new arena. To do that, you need to use some of the future value of that developed land to help fund the arena — and ensure that the public sector receives return on the investment of that public land. Those public sector returns could be used to help fund regional cultural amenities — or more pressing economic issues such as community development, workforce training, and affordable housing.

    The Park East Partnership provides a model for a public-private partnership that leverages publicly-owned land to drive economic development downtown, provide financial returns for the public sector, and keep the Bucks in Milwaukee.

    It’s time to expand the conversation beyond taxes and work together to find sustainable funding for our regional priorities.

    Read more about the Park East Partnership at:

  2. Bruce, isn’t there an incremental bump in sales tax as well in the Wisconsin Center District? It kinda p*sses me off that I have to pay that just because I work downtown in sight of the Wisconsin Center.

  3. Dave K. says:

    Passing new tax laws is a losing propsition in these poltitcal times. Isn’t there some way to raise prices for these activities, and then discount county or city residents? As a county resident I make use of most of these venues and really enjoy them. Buy why should I pay the same as someone from Waukesha or Brookfield? For example, Walt Disney World charges lots for their tickets, but they have major discounts for Florida residents.

    I also feel the same way about public workers – they should be allowed to live anywhere, but they should have some kind of salary penalty if they live out of the municipality.

  4. Bruce Murphy says:

    Ed, you’re right, the Wisconsin Center also has a .5% sales tax on prepared food and beverages (mostly restaurants), which I added to the story.

  5. Jason says:

    Bruce, thanks for the great article. When I was in Afghanistan, I befriended some migrant workers that worked in the laundry facilities. I was amazed that the worker from Croatia and India knew of my beloved home city because of the…Bucks! The NBA has such tremendous global popularity- Milwaukee is lucky to have 1 of 30 franchises in the world. As Wisconsin companies look to grown the export products to Asia, Latin America, etc., they have to leverage the NBA’s popularity and the credibility it brings Milwaukee. No offense to my friends in Des Moines and Omaha, but they can’t say the same.

    I’ve been fortunate to have visited 49 states and 26 countries in the 19-years I’ve been away. Like most Milwaukeeans, I’ve had to explain how great our city is. So much has changed with the Calvatarra; I see the impact it has had on the perception people have of Milwaukee.

    Even though I will most likely retire elsewhere, I pray that Milwaukee build a stadium that has as much impact as the Art Museum. With so many stadiums and arenas built since 1992, we have the luxury of picking from the best details. I’d solicit community input over the course of the year with the lone rule that no idea is too outlandish. Make this the envy of all other cities. Put a Milwaukee sports museum in it, restaurants, coffeehouse, etc. People climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge…why not the new arena? Have areas where you can see in from street level. This should be a “third place” that generates revenue year-round. Travelers in town for a day should be directed to take a tour.

    I’ll go to my grave feeling that Miller Park was a failure. When people on treadmills, in doctor’s offices, etc. see footage of PNC Park, they think “wow.” It’s an instant advertisement for Pittsburgh. With Miller Park, it says nothing about Milwaukee and is only used 81-days a year. Don’t do the same with the arena. Building a “wow” building sends a message that our best days are ahead, losing the team reaffirms the perception nationally that our best days are behind us.

  6. Mike Bark says:

    A few thoughts on this:

    – If we wanted to do something visionary we’d go get a NFL team. Milwaukee is the most NFL obsessed part of the country and it always seems odd to me that the closest NFL team is in Chicago.

    – The NBA would really have to change their competitive model to get people in Milwaukee excited about putting something up for the Bucks. Steve Czaben hit is perfect on his show this morning. He said the NBA has basically evolved into a league where the stars want to play in LA, New York, Boston, Miami, Dallas, Chicago, Houston or Brooklyn. Sure, Milwaukee might be able to get a LeBron type guy and get a championship before he leaves for greener pastures or luck into a Tim Duncan type who would embrace the City and stay. The NBA is a superstar league and you need one to win a Championship with the one anomaly being the Pistons in 2006. So how excited is anyone to see a perennial losing team that might periodically sneak into the playoffs?

    – Is anyone surprised by the MMAC’s task force? You could have filled in that list with no problem.

    – I think having the Bucks is overrated and am surprised the Business Journal is such a cheerleader for this. Bruce is right the attendance for the other stuff is better and it’s not like Marquette, the concerts that come, and the Admirals need a new arena. The Bucks spur so much economic development the bar across the street can’t seem to stay in business.

  7. Tom D says:

    Ed Heinzelman, the “Wisconsin Center District” (where you pay the extra 0.5% sales tax on candy, beverages, and prepared food) isn’t just downtown–it is ALL of Milwaukee County (plus those pieces of Bayside and the city of Milwaukee that extend beyond Milwaukee County).

  8. jake says:

    MMAC, i wouldn’t trust them their just the business arm of the conservative GMAC, Abele’s political benefactors.

  9. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    There will not be any new taxes for any more Leftist toys in Wisconsin. If you want them, pay for them yourself. There is absolutely no feelings for another stadium deal. Last time the left voted against the stadiums, then used it to defeat two Republican state senators. Who is dumb enough to vote for that again?
    If Sheehy and company think that they will get any tax money after they watched the MPS deal, the mis run Wisconsin Center and other foibles of the Milwaukee area, it will not happen. I suggest that the left go door to door and sign up volunteers to pay for it. these select committees that do not contain any average citizens come up with some grandiose ideas and then hand the rest of us the bill.
    Bill Buckley said that he would rather have the country run by the first names in the phone book then by the faculty of Yale and we feel the same way. I would rather pick 48 people out of the Milwaukee cty phone book at random then the 48 that they put on committee. To them I say find your money anywhere you can, but taxes will not fly.

  10. Observer says:

    Gee Dohnal, I blanked out after the capitalized “Leftist toys”. I will say you are consistent in that anything printed in Urban Milwaukee is somehow a political item that needs you to expose. Now on to discussing the article.
    I’m in total agreement the a new stadium would be very unlikely. A mega shopping/hotel/parking/restaurant/entertainment/arena complex that generates enough cash to pay for itself would probably find fierce opposition from nearby businesses that compete in those fields. And s professional sports owners would never allow a socialist-like community team ownership ala the Packers. Sports teams are losing proposition for cities, enriching only the owners for the most part. Ask Oakland or Cincinnati how being major league helped with having a sports stadium paid for by taxpayers. I’m afraid that leaves us with rooting for the Seattle Bucks if you enjoy the players. Perhaps the Bulls might play a dozen games in Milwaukee if we sweeten the pot for them.

  11. Andy says:

    I for one will wait and see what sort of plans or proposals the task force comes up with before I pass judgement. It’s no secret that I generally feel sports teams are a great asset for a city and worth being partially supported by the greater community… but only to a certain extent. So I say lets see what they come up with before we put the blindfold on and start humming our favorite tune to block out any new information or ideas.

  12. Bruce Thompson says:

    When I moved to Milwaukee in 1972, I recall that Milwaukee residents enjoyed free or reduced admission, which makes me believe that the transition to the county took place sometime afterwards. It seems fair that people whose taxes help support an institution be given a break in attending. One question would be whether this would further exacerbate the alienation from Milwaukee county that seems prevalent in neighboring counties.

    Given these attitudes, it seems unlikely that a regional tax, although it makes a lot of sense, would be politically viable.

  13. Kyle says:

    Bruce, you mean you want a better deal to see the Bucks than they already provide? Perhaps you haven’t heard, but the team is so bad, and opening day so undersold, that if you buy an opening day ticket you get a free ticket to every game until the floor is back. The floor.

    This isn’t quite like the Miami Marlins offering a Groupon for their opening day, but it’s close.

    And regarding funding a new arena through taxes, of course it’s going to exacerbate the alienation in the area. When multiple places feel the need to pass resolutions to reject a tax before there’s a proposal, how do you think they’ll react when Milwaukee manages to whine until they get the tax anyway? I think Milwaukee has a lot of good things going for it, and I’d love to see more regional cooperation, but it confuses me to no end that so many people can’t see why Milwaukee is disliked by everyone else in the area.

  14. Gene Haas says:

    Bruce: Nice article re a tax structure for building a new facility to house the Bucks, etc. You pointed out many of the pros and cons in financing this potential happening.
    Although taxation sometimes fails to meet with the overall approval of community members, it does seem to work in order to see it take place. I recall in a grille room conversation with the late Al McGuire, while watching a college basketball game whereby he was taking notes for doing a future telecast with Billy Packer, that he strongly conjectured his feelings about making Milwaukee his future home….pointing out its many wonderful points of interest: cultural, recreational, and social…all supported to some degree with taxation. I’m not sure if there are still any Lloyd and Jane Pettits around. Hopefully there are….and then we won’t have to worry about taxation anymore.

  15. Observer says:

    ” I think Milwaukee has a lot of good things going for it, and I’d love to see more regional cooperation, but it confuses me to no end that so many people can’t see why Milwaukee is disliked by everyone else in the area.” But surely Kyle you realize that there be no one else in the area if there was not a Milwaukee.

  16. jake says:

    I wouldn’t count on the white flight burbs for anything, they mooch off milwaukee as a parasite and want something for nothing.

  17. Tom Bosworth says:

    The last thing any of those institutions needs is increased control by politicians, and that is exactly what we would get with increased tax support. The institutions themselves would be better off if all existing involuntary (taxpayer) funding were phased out as was done with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. They would have to respond to what their natural constituents want, and at the same time would be free of demands from politicians with their own agendas, and those who are forced by government to pay for them.

    All of the organizations you cited deserve our voluntary support, except perhaps the Milwaukee Public Museum, which has been a management disaster for decades. Tax funding simply dissociates once worthwhile institutions from these who voluntarily support them, and binds them to involuntary supporters. That is a prescription not for success, but for long term mediocrity.

    With purely voluntary support, all those institutions would have to work to gain support from large numbers of people, and they would be supported at the level which the community is willing pay for.

    Why hobble them with politics? Free them entirely. Don’t institute new taxes, phase out the old ones. Politics can only hobble, not free.

  18. jake says:

    I perfer taxpayer support for public institutions. The last thing i want to see is the MPM or Art museum privatize and be controlled by some libertarian billionaire or sponsored by some giant corporation.

    Sport areanas are one thing since the profits go to a private orginization, but public institutions are everbodies.

  19. Tom Bosworth says:

    Jake, Hate to break it to you, but the Art Museum is already private, and always has been.

    It is a private institution which accepts taxpayers’ money and sits on government land, but unlike the Milwaukee Public Museum they own their own building and their own collections. They are beholden mostly to their members, little to politicians.

    The Art Museum controls their own collection. That is why, unlike the Milwaukee Public Museum which is owned by the County, they can actively curate the collection, free from County Board interference. The Public Museum has done almost no serious curation in decades, and have laid off most of the curators. The politicians assure us that we won’t notice the difference.

    If that is so, why were they paying for curators in the first place? Politicians have very different incentives from museums. The last thing we should want are people with no vested interest controlling our most important cultural groups. The Public Museum shows us why.

    Look at the difference between the two: one is in steep, long term, quite possibly irreversible decline, while the other is a growing, healthy institution supported by those evil capitalists.

    I’ll take the evil capitalists and the consequences of their control any day.

  20. Phil B says:

    wouldn’t this entire ‘conversation’ (such as it is) be a bit clearer if Herb would simply confirm exactly how much he will contribute? Not what he PLANS to contribute, but the actual amount. In fact, unless and until he does, I suggest removing the Bucks from any regional tax.

    Bear in mind the astonishing disingenuity Herb’s old classmate Bud has demonstrated as an owner of the Brewers, as MLB Commish, and the recipient of taxpayers $. I’ll be blunt: he was and is dishonest and deceptive. Who the hell wants to fall for that crap again?

  21. Andy says:

    Phil, shouldn’t we wait to see what the task force comes up with so Herb (and all of us) know what exactly it is that needs contributing to and how much it will need total?

  22. jake says:

    Thats scary the consquences of their control can already be seen in this state. To the highest bidder, a free market fantasy that never existed.

    Apparently you did not understand what Tax payer support means.

    Public can not be private and for profit your evil capatalist overlords control would be run like a authoritarian hierarchy, with no public input nor control.

  23. Kyle says:

    It’s nice to see that jake has volunteered to be the dohnal of the left for the comment sections. That contribution was sorely lacking.

    Observer, somehow I think there would be someone else in the area if there were no Milwaukee. But I never said I didn’t want Milwaukee to exist, or even that I didn’t want Milwaukee to succeed. My point was merely that many of the supporters of Milwaukee make it easy to dislike supporters of Milwaukee. Often by doing things like reminding people they wouldn’t exist without the magnificent presence of the big city.

    There are other city supporters, like Urban Milwaukee’s own Michael Horne, that openly advocate death to the suburbs at any cost. Not everyone wants to work with and help out someone who openly wants to destroy them.

    Still others may not trust that their interests are represented by the task force. It’s nice to see 3 of the 48 members are from outside of Milwaukee County, but Washington and Racine counties don’t have any representation. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled by any recommendation they had no voice in that requires another regional tax.

    Mostly, it would go a long way toward projects like this if Milwaukee leaders weren’t so combative over everything. It’s hard to give examples of this without opening up every other controversial topic, but the impression is the Milwaukee only believes in regional cooperation when they’re getting everything they want, but never when it’s to help out another municipality.

    At some point, the suburbs need to recognize the advantages they have being near Milwaukee, and that investing in a development plan for the city and region will benefit everyone. But Milwaukee needs to emphasize a plan that actually helps everyone. Maybe this task force is a step in that direction, but it certainly seems like the goal is to keep the Bucks, and right now that isn’t seen as a regional goal.

  24. Bill Sell says:

    What is always left out of these discussions, here and in the business press and the wider media, is the voter. We, the County, voted for an interesting version of the sales tax. In 2008 we voted to take transit and parks OFF the property tax and to fund those two institutions with a 1% sales tax.

    The numbers work, even for the poorest among us, because the sales tax will do what the property tax cannot do: tax the visitor, and not raise our state sales tax anywhere near the sales taxes of other nearby states.

    For transit the sales tax works because a up-cycle in business, just when it is needed, will allow transit to increase its services and/or cut its fares – without pinching the individual homeowner or resident. While the property tax, which no one likes but politicians depend on, has no upswing because it is continually burdened with new stuff the electeds cannot otherwise figure out how to pay for.

  25. Dave Reid says:

    @Kyle Because the burbs never work against Milwaukee. Today we have suburban leaders actively passing laws taking away local control on a variety of issues (really too many to list – MPS, streetcar, residency come to mind) and laws aimed at stopping urban voters from voting. We have a history of suburban leaders killing regional and now attempting to kill local Milwaukee transit projects. We have a DOT that continually advocates for expanding freeways through city neighborhoods (sorry Story Hill), for the benefit of suburban commuters. We have a sitting governor that actively campaigned on “not being Milwaukee.” And a previous governor who famously said “stick it to Milwaukee.” Great rhetoric and leadership as far as working together there I’d say.

    PS Yup it is Urban Milwaukee.

  26. Kyle says:

    Half of what you listed is from Walker, who came from your county. I can’t help it if you hate the products of your own politics. Maybe if previous leaders hadn’t tried to rob you blind you wouldn’t have ended up giving Walker the platform he needed.

    But you’re right. It’s Urban Milwaukee. Why try to discuss regional cooperation. Screw everyone in a one story building. I’m done. Best of luck to you all.

  27. Bruce Murphy says:

    Kyle, I try to avoid these arguments but would just like to say that its simply not true that MIchael Horne advocates death to the suburbs at all costs. If the goal here is dialogue, that kind of stuff doesn’t help.

  28. As a couple other commenters pointed out, it would be much more tenable for these organizations to increase their admissions prices and then discount admission for Milwaukee County residents. A few of them already do this (or at least did a few years ago, though off the top of my head I can’t think which ones). They could even use their attendance data and tax revenue to calculate what would be a proportionally fair hike/discount rate so those outside Milwaukee County were contributing their fair share.
    I’m not at ALL downplaying the importance of any of these institutions, including the Bucks. I don’t want to lose any of the attractions mentioned in this article. However, I think a regional tax would require an amount of political capital we just don’t have right now. And if we did, I’d advocate spending it on creating a Regional Transit Authority.

  29. Andy says:

    This whole city vs suburbs fight is like two children whining that the other one started it and both continue to escalate. I know Kyle is generally one of those people that supports cooperation, but has personal feelings on the Arena topic (maybe a couple others) and believes it’s not a regional issue and should be handled by the city. That doesn’t mean he, or others from the burbs, feel we should have death to the city.

    Dave Reid, bringing up our failing school system and voter fraud are probably the best arguments to make, but in general being angry about past actions won’t help in getting any new cooperation done. After all, we all want the same things… we want a strong local economy, we want to be safe, we want to educate our children, etc. Now we just need to find a way to find the ways to accomplish them that we can all agree on.

    On that same note, I can assure everyone that saying “death to the suburbs” and “If it were up to me, we would just nuke [substitute bulldoze, blow up, etc] the suburbs” is also not the best attitude to have and only fuels anti-city feelings. By the way, those are not exagerations, they are actual commments from this site.

  30. Phil B says:

    If this is truly a ‘regional’ project, what about considering locating it in Waukesha County? It’s just not fair that Milwaukee gets both a trolley AND substandard sports teams. Lets spread it around a bit.

  31. Tim says:

    Well, golly Andy, if you’re quoting actual anonymous posters from a public website, I guess that makes your point valid… And nope.

    Let’s face facts, without a regional tax Milwaukee shouldn’t impose a tax either. Without this subsidy, the Bucks are leaving the Milwaukee metro.

    I can live with that just fine, can you?

  32. Jesse says:

    Wait, we’re talking about having a ticket increase for those that live outside Milwaukee right? Why not have no increase in taxes and just raise the prices for everyone?

    Why should Milwaukee get saddled with higher taxes for the region’s benefit, if the rest of the region isn’t willing to pay?

  33. Tom D says:

    How about taxing the highly-paid athletes for part of a new arena’s expense?

    Create a new “Arena District” consisting only of the city block with the new arena (plus the block containing the Bradley Center, but only until the BC is torn down). Impose a new 5% income tax in that district (over and above all other income taxes). Exempt the first $100,000 earned each year (so the beer vendors, ticket sellers, etc. aren’t hit).

    The $100,000 exclusion would be pro-rated so that a member of the LA Lakers who earns $8,200,000/year but only $100,000 of that in Milwaukee (since the Lakers play 1 game out of 82 in Milwaukee) would only be able to exclude 1/82 of $100,000 ($1,220) and would pay 5% tax on $98,780 ($4,939).

    Players on the Bucks would pay the tax on 50% of their income (since 50% of their games are played in Milwaukee) and could take half of their $100,000 exemption.

    A tax like this would bring in over $1.5 million per year–a good start toward a new arena while hitting only NBA players and perhaps a team executive or two.

    This would not make it hard for the Bucks to recruit players, since most pro athletes don’t consider income tax rates when choosing a team. If athletes did, teams like the Dodgers, Brooklyn Nets, and Red Sox would be unable to recruit since all play in high-tax states.

    This would not complicate players’ tax returns any more than they already are. Players must already file returns and pay taxes in each state (and where appropriate, each city) where their team plays.

  34. Tom D says:

    A correction to my prior post. The tax I described would bring in over $3 million per year.

    The typical NBA game goes through over $1.5 million in payroll. A 5% tax would bring in $75,000 per game ($3+ million over 41 home games).

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us