Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Arena Plan is Massive Tax Shift to Milwaukee

County taxpayers will pay far more than predicted, as state legislators back away from the deal.

By - May 29th, 2015 01:21 pm
Arena Rendering.

Arena Rendering.

At the outset, let me agree with the Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity, surely for the first time in my life: The new plan for the Bucks arena “is based on fuzzy math, complicated accounting and taxpayer dollars,” as David Fladeboe, director of Americans for Prosperity of Wisconsin, put it. “Whether it comes from the state, the county, the city or other authority these are taxpayer dollars. This proposal needs to be rejected.”

Implicit in Fladeboe’s statement was an awareness that the deal is changing which pots of taxpayer money would fund the new arena. But somehow this major development escaped the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. As the word “newspaper” suggests, its job is to tell us what is new. Yet the paper’s big, top-of-the-fold headline, “Taxpayer tab: $250 million,” was very old news. Since January it has been clear the Bucks owners and former owner Herb Kohl would together pay $250 million and taxpayers were expected to pay the remaining $250 to build the arena.

What had changed — and was quite newsworthy — was the proportion of taxpayer dollars to be paid by Milwaukee County. Recall that Gov. Scott Walker’s original proposal pledged the state to pay $220 million, leaving a gap of $30 million that might be paid by the owners stepping up or by the city and county closing the gap. Over time, as the owners made clear they wouldn’t budge, the pressure was on the city and county to come up with the $30 million. Then, Republican legislators began carping that Milwaukee wasn’t paying enough, and the deal gradually morphed into the state paying $150 million, with the city and county being pressured to jointly come up with $100 million.

So things stood until a Journal Sentinel story let us know a radically revised deal had been fashioned, whereby the state would provide $55 million in bonded funding and Milwaukee County taxpayers would provide $195 million. Milwaukee has gone from paying 12 percent of the costs to 78 percent. That’s a massive change, and the tax burden shift should have been the headline in any case, but all the more so for a newspaper which calls itself the “Milwaukee” Journal Sentinel. But in the last decade the newspaper has seemed increasingly less interested in the concerns of county residents.

And so its story never tallied up the total for the state versus Milwaukee, nor discussed what caused the change by Republican legislators. As Steven Walters has reported, polls show that outside Milwaukee and Madison, voters opposed the state bailout of the Bucks by a stunning 86 percent to 10 percent margin.  One can certainly imagine GOP legislators are hearing negative things from constituents on this issue.

Meanwhile, Democrats have happily dumped on Walker for supporting an arena deal. A story in the Washington Post on Walker reported the carping from Democrats: “They note that Walker wants to retain a tax break on manufacturers and farms and to issue $220 million in bonds for a Milwaukee Bucks basketball arena, even as he is pushing for cuts in education and health care.” Given that the Bucks deal, to the extent that it has any economic spinoff, would have the most for Democratic Milwaukee County, this comment infuriated Republicans.

And so, about a week or so ago, in one of the ongoing meetings of representatives of the Bucks, the state, city and county, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos apparently dropped a bomb: that the legislature wouldn’t approve more than $50 million in state funding. This seemed to leave the deal dead, but that’s when state Department of Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler floated the idea of letting the state grab some $3 million annually of the city and county’s uncollected debt. The state has more power to garnish wages and other tools to collect debts.

The city, it appears, resisted, but County Executive Chris Abele was okay with the idea, and the number was increased to $4 million as it became clear there was a bigger gap to fill. (The state bumped the $50 million to $55 million) Meanwhile, Walker and legislative leaders were gradually sold on the idea of letting the Wisconsin Center District raise one or both of the hotel and car rental taxes to raise some $93 million. Walker had been adamant that no taxes would be increased, but has now changed to arguing this isn’t a state tax so it’s okay.

The Bucks representatives had long assumed Abele would have trouble getting any Bucks handout approved by the county board, but Chandler’s solution of having the county certify its debts for state collection can apparently be done without board approval. And it’s expected to raise $80 million over 20 years.

Board Chairman Marina Dimitrijevic tells me the proposal hasn’t been discussed with the board and “was a complete surprise.” She says she is seeking legal counsel on this, adding “it would be especially concerning if the final proposal would allow one individual to commit millions of dollars in taxpayer resources unilaterally. Many questions are being asked about a possible diversion of taxpayer resources away from public programs that provide day-to-day services to the County’s vulnerable residents.”

As for the city, it has slightly sweetened its earlier deal and is now offering to build a $35 million parking garage and create a $12 million TIF district. (The Common Council would have to approve all this.) Of course, as I’ve noted, the city will lose a huge amount of tax dollars, as much as $450 million over 30 years because the arena will be tax exempt. Since the exemption also applies to the county, county taxpayers will pay twice for this exemption.

The deal also appears to envision using the Wisconsin Center’s tax hike to pay for an expanded convention center and change the center’s governing authority to combine it with the Bradley Center and perhaps other downtown entertainment entities. That might make sense, but at this point appears a case of the tail wagging the dog: changing the structure not to serve Milwaukee’s Downtown, but to pave the way for an NBA arena. And the $93 million it would provide to the Bucks appears to be highly leveraged and grabbed from tax revenue gained many years into the future.

The politician who seems most exposed in this deal, and who has been unwilling to discuss it with the press, is Abele. The idea of having the state go more aggressively after the county’s creditors, many of whom could be low-income people, to gain $80 million for the Bucks’ billionaire owners, has an ugly sound to it, all more so given that Abele himself is a wealthy man. Perhaps worse, if the state can’t raise the expected $80 million, it will likely reduce its aid to Milwaukee County to make up the difference, which will directly affect local taxpayers. This might be an issue a populist opponent for county exec could exploit.

But of course all parties involved hope that none of this really sounds like a tax. The hotel and car rental taxes fall more on tourists, the debt collection is just collecting what’s owed, after all, TIF districts have never been understood by taxpayers, and the state bonds, as we’ve repeatedly been told, are coming from income taxes paid by NBA players. The reality is the total cost to taxpayers, when the final tally is made (and odds are I’ll be the only reporter to do the tally) will likely come very close to $1 billion. But don’t expect to see that in a headline.

Short Takes

-The state will also pay an estimated $25 million in interest on the $55 million bonds, which adds to the $500 million cost for the arena.

-I’m told the city is pressuring the Bucks to provide more details on spinoff development they envision building near the arena, and that there is bargaining as to what will be tax exempt. It’s pretty hard to do a TIF district, which gets repaid from future property taxes paid, if all the development is tax exempt. This too, is something that doesn’t seem to be getting much coverage.

Arena Renderings

36 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Arena Plan is Massive Tax Shift to Milwaukee”

  1. Tim says:

    I’m hoping that Barrett understands that he can walk away from all of this; the city of Milwaukee will be better for it at this point. The state of WI stands to lose the most on this because they will be getting all of the increased taxes from the players’ salaries, they just think we’re desperate enough to do anything to keep the Bucks here.

    Maybe Barrett has been smart all along & already negotiated a payment from Seattle to let the Bucks go… paying for a stadium suitable for MLS in Milwaukee. One can dream!

  2. David says:

    I think the County is excited about this because it can push the cultural amenities under a taxing authority which means that the museum, zoo, Domes, etc., will finally have a dedicated funding source. That is a game changer.

  3. David says:

    Tim….. the state does have the most to lose and to gain… they do not want to see the Bucks leave. What will they do with the Bradley Center if the Bucks leave? I’m not opposed to using the hotel, car and restaurant tax for the arena. In fact, I would lean on sales tax much more and lower property taxes.

  4. Ryan says:

    David- “What will they do with the Bradley Center if the Bucks leave?”

    What will they do with it if they stay? I couldn’t care less about the Bucks. Why should I have to pay for an arena when the Bradley Center is perfectly fine for basketball games? Let the millionaires and billionaires pay for their arena; what this amounts to is corporate welfare.

  5. Will says:

    “What will they do with it if they stay?”
    Knock down the BC and build something better in its place all the while avoiding the 30 million they’d have to pay to repair that terrible building

    “I couldn’t care less about the Bucks. Why should I have to pay for an arena when the Bradley Center is perfectly fine for basketball games?”

    Because the elected officials have decided you should. I don’t have kids but pay taxes that go to public schools which do a pretty terrible job of educating the kids that go there (at least by my house). Welcome to the real world

  6. Tim says:

    My problem is why is one of the poorest counties in the state of WI subsidizing this? Milwaukee should match whatever Waukesha is putting in… last I heard it was $0

  7. M says:

    The big elephant in the room is the “entertainment” annex demanded by the Bucks as part of the arena complex. That’s what raised the project cost to $500M. Bucks owners want it to increase the arena footprint and revenue streams, but it’s totally unnecessary for the arena project per se. The arena will be steps away from Old Word Third Street and a few blocks from Water Street, both with plenty of “entertainment” options. If more bars and restaurants are needed, entrepreneurs will happily open them

    City officials carefully avoid offering any details about the “Live Block” (with multiple floors of bar, a la Kansas City Live–a fiscal bust), beyond what’s in Bucks & NBA press releases. But the only reason the city would need local citizens to fund a new $35M parking structure is to replace one to be demolished. That functional one was built for $25M (on 4th & Highland, where where the nightlife mall will go). After all, the new arena will have 1,700 fewer seats than the Bradley Center. I’m all for more development around a new arena, but as things are going that will happen in any case. Housing, offices and varied retail is needed near the arena, not just bars & dining.

    Deleting whatever this “Live” boondoggle will cost, and local and state leaders may be able to craft a palatable deal–without gouging taxpayers. (That 50-50 partnership is a joke. As Bruce has tallied, $1 billion in public subsidies is actually 200 percent of projected arena costs.)

    At least now we know someone (Rep. Vos) has put a foot down. Let’s have some of that locally…

  8. Kyle says:

    As best I can tell, Milwaukee is 40th in the state in per capita income. So I suppose that you’re right that it’s one of the (33) poorest counties in the state. Given that Milwaukee’s representatives argued against state funding, why is it any surprise that the state is reducing the funding available?

    Everyone here seems to hate this deal so much, I’ve given up arguing for it. I hope they move on to a city that appreciates them. And I hope that Bruce finds a way to squeeze $450 million in property tax out of the Park East land. That should be a sight to see.

  9. Dennis says:

    Great article. Chris Abele needs to go. This reminds me of last year when the County miscalculated pension payments for decades and Chris Abele’s solution was to collect the lost money from the estates of deceased County employees.

    Chris Abele has consistently supported policies that take from the poor to give to the rich.

  10. M says:

    Kyle, I missed it…who was against state funding? Even so, state legislators are responding to opposition to arena funding in their districts, not what anyone is saying in MKE.

  11. Kyle says:

    6th paragraph in this story:

    “Meanwhile, Democrats have happily dumped on Walker for supporting an arena deal. A story in the Washington Post on Walker reported the carping from Democrats: “They note that Walker wants to retain a tax break on manufacturers and farms and to issue $220 million in bonds for a Milwaukee Bucks basketball arena, even as he is pushing for cuts in education and health care.” ”

    Bruce’s source link doesn’t lead me anywhere useful or I’d find the names of the Democrats.

  12. Stacy says:

    The plan, as you explain it, is a masterpiece of misdirection and slight of hand. You would think this kind of subterfuge could be put to better use than making billionaires happy at the expense of the poor folks living in Milwaukee County

  13. David says:

    I agree Kyle… I’m tired. I hope the Bucks move to KC or Seattle. Billionaires, millionaires.. blah blah blah. I guess we’re just all poor folk living here in Milwaukee, blah blah blah. Milwaukee is the richest, poorest and most diverse. Of course we rank low per capita, but remember most of the tab is Milwaukee County as well as the city. Milwaukee county is not poor. We act like it though. It takes an act of God to invest in transit and our cultural amenities, ie parks, zoo, museum, are drying up. And Dennis… Chris Abele understands this may be the only option to get our cultural amenities dedicated funding. Care to expand on the “Chris Abele must go” comment?

  14. Sgt Felco says:

    Hope they add a morals clause. Because professional sports figures never lie, never take steroids, never fight in bars, never abuse their spouses, and Baseball Commishioners are always right on top of things like steroid use (well, maybe not. Perhaps Bud was busy counting his $?)

    Honestly, have any of the cheerleaders here learned anything from the pie in the sky Miller Park projections?

    And what is the cost of law enforcement when one fourth of the fans leaving Miller Park are drunk?

    Go away Bucks. Take Barrett with you

  15. Marie says:

    The only time anyone talks about dedicated funding for culture, “entertainment” & parks (often leaving out parks) is when there’s an arena attached to it. The MMAC-backed Cultural Needs Task Force said it had a final report to release after a year-long study. Then they never bothered to release it when it looked like other schemes would fund a new arena. They know their priorities.

    Ald. Bauman made a half-hearted to pitch a sales tax for a bunch of stuff, but included an arena plus lifetime arena maintenance. Whatever their problems, at least the WCD pays its bills with what earned income (those taxes only pay off debt).

  16. David says:

    Marie. When the topic of the streetcar is brought up suddenly everyone loves buses. Absent the streetcar, everyone wants to cut the MCTS budget. When the arena debate comes up, suddenly people complain about underfunding our other amenities. Absent the arena debate we just cut cut cut. It’s a false choice. And Sgt. Felco you win for dumbest post of the week.

  17. Donald George MacDonald says:

    I guess there is one basic question City and County of Milwaukee taxpayers have to ask ourselves: Is every Milwaukee taxpayer able and willing to pay an average of $400 in one type of tax or another, to pay in an old way or an unknown way, no matter what the bill will be called, no matter how long the bill will be spread out to pay for the new arena of the future?


    $127,000,000 from city and county / 400,000 City and County of Milwaukee taxpayers = $320 per Milwaukee taxpayer +

    $100,000,000 from state / 2,500,000 State of Wisconsin taxpayers = $40 per state taxpayer +

    $93,000,000 from various WCD entertainment taxes paid by Milwaukee and state and out-of-state taxpayers =

    $320 in taxes will eventually have to be paid by every City and County of Milwaukee taxpayer +

    $40 in taxes will eventually have to be paid by State of Wisconsin taxpayers +

    $ in taxes of misc. entertainment =

    Let’s call it an even $400 that Milwaukee taxpayers will have to pay in one type of tax or another, to pay in an old way or an unknown way, no matter what the bill will be called, no matter how long the bill will be spread out to pay for the new arena of the future.


    And yet Governor Walker claims, “No new taxes?!”

    So, “Build it now?”

    “Robbing Peter (UW) to pay Paul (NBA)?” “Shell games?” “Shifting debts?” “Greed?” “First you see debt, now you don’t?” “Ponzi schemes?” “Rich get richer and poor get poorer?” “Gluttony? ” “Balance transfers?” “House of cards?” “Equity loans?” “Making the same mistake twice?” “Pride?” “Location, location, location?” “Deferred debts?” “Fair lending practices?” “Trickle down economics?” “You’ve got to spend money to make money?” “Envy?” “You’ve got to make money to spend money?” “Bankruptcy?” “Extortion by deadline?” “Political gamesmanship?” “It just doesn’t add up?” “Voodoo economics?”

    And yet Governor Walker claims, “No new taxes?!”

    So, “Build it now?”


    And while I’m at it,
    what applies to Miller Park and baseball
    also applies to the new arena and basketball:

    I play MY “game” of baseball and

    I play in our enormous, secular cathedrals with walls of ads and

    I ignore MY shrill and jeering “fans” who covet MY prescribed brawn and

    I will continue to take MY many millions of dollars “fans” pay

    ME with their far too expensive tickets and

    I even consent to sell MY pressing hoards of “fans”

    MY worthless collectible card and the bobble-head they covet and

    I will continue to take MY many millions of dollars “fans” pay

    ME with their far too expensive tickets and

    I even consent to sell MY pressing hoards of “fans”

    MY worthless autograph they covet and

    I will continue to take MY many millions of dollars “fans” pay

    ME with their far too expensive tickets to MY very boring “game,” to

    ME anyway, except when

    MY hoards of “fans” run to possess

    MY worthless hardball homers and finally

    I will then even retire as rich as you just can never imagine and

    I will live the rest of MY life most richly, in sun-drenched beauty on

    MY private, tropical island.

  18. D says:

    Milwaukee’s liberals are doing their best to kill this city. I used to blame the Republicans but at the end of the day it is truly the far-left fringe of the Democratic Party. Believe it or not, not everyone who lives in this city is living in poverty or on welfare. The movers and shakers that make this city a place people want to be tend to like entertainment and things to do. These are the people who support the arts, build things like the Calatrava, and truly make this a ‘big city’. Once the Bucks leave, you will start seeing some of these people question living here. The movers and shakers, the people with money—they are sitting in the lower level at Bucks games. They aren’t hanging out in some park in the ghetto. Why should these people stay in Milwaukee without big city amenities and things to do for fun, especially in the dead of winter when the Bucks play? Hell, why should I stay here as a middle class resident?

    Of course Bruce and his allies will make the claim that ‘they will spend their money somewhere’. On what exactly? In a town where the only things you people want to do for entertainment is killing animals, being an alcoholic, eating fried fish and bratwurst, watching some washed up 80s band or faux redneck country singer at Summerfest, killing other people, stealing cars, protesting, grubbing their money like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, and taking care of your lawn. Some of us have higher ambitions for this city and you need to have rich/affluent people to accomplish them. Take your socialism and conservatism to Mississippi and Cuba.

  19. Marie says:

    David, some issues may present false choices, but not sure what those are in terms of funding an arena/entertainment destination (bars) and funding parks and cultural institutions (Marcus Center, museums, zoo). Yes, you can do some of both but the pot of “public money” (from whatever sources) is not unlimited. Funding choices–based on values, politics, and whatever–will be made.

    I happen to favor a streetcar, and buses, and light rail, and also the train Walker killed that would have connected Chicago to MKE and the Twin Cities (which now will go through Iowa instead).

    I would like to see urban planning around big-ticket “infrastructure” that reflects long-term visions for MKE–not willy-nilly, piecemeal decisions, which this arena deal seems to be.

    Solid planning helped bring about Historic Third Ward, Riverwalk, Menomonee Valley transformation, and MMSD/City sustainability initiatives. MKE certainly can do it, but is it happening now? Not sure? Are deal-makers listening to anyone outside a tight inner circle (and Bucks owners)? It’s hard to know with secret deal making. But it looks like politicians intend to commit a huge pile of limited public money (and other assets) with little to no options for public input (JS reported that Abele prefers no public input or votes by elected officials). Railroading (not the good kind) happens all the time, and then you get deals like the city having to give Miller Park $1 million a year forever (on top of the infamous sales tax).

    To me the choice is between “Keeping the Bucks by giving them whatever they demand” versus “Keeping the Bucks through wise appropriation of public resources, based on planning, advice from economists, etc. and community engagement.” A girl can dream…

  20. Barbara says:

    Ugh. That is one ugly building. Looks like it’s wearing one of those English sports car driver caps.

    That aside, sales taxes fall more heavily on the poor, so we have one more example of the poor paying for the toys of the rich. Ugh again.

  21. Ken Bast says:

    See this article from Minneapolis: Vikings’ Bagley has a new nickname in stadium push: Les Got More

  22. Mike Bark says:

    A few thoughts:

    – If public money is going to be used from this project the bulk of it should come from Milwaukee and Milwaukee County and most of the benefits of the development accrues to them. No one is crying for state wide support of the Green Bay Packers or statewide support of the Milwaukee Brewers even though both of those teams have much more of a state following than the Bucks do.

    – D, people really don’t go to Milwaukee Bucks games right now and they haven’t for a long time. I had a 10 pak this year and most of the games I was at were half empty and I had the pack where you could pick whatever games you wanted. So this was against the Cavs, Spurs and other draws. It was full for a Bulls game, but 75% of the crowd was from Chicago. The first 2 home playoff games were 50% Bulls fans.

    – Why are the Bucks games sparsely attended? Sure, the team has stunk for a long time, but the real reason has much to do with the cost. To get a seat in the lower bowl you are talking about at least $80 and closer to $200 in many areas. A decent seat in the upper deck will run a person $45. Compare that to the Brewers. You can get a really good seat for the same $45. People with families can bring in their own food and drink to a Brewers game saving them some costs and can also grab a pretty good ticket for $15. In other words, the generic family of four can’t afford to go to many Bucks game. Sure, Chris Abele and Craig Karamzin can sit court side with their Dad’s money but a middle class family has a hard time attending and forget about it if you are lower middle class.

    – Herb Kohl watched his investment grow for $18,000,000 to $550,000,000 in the Milwaukee Bucks. Not a bad rate of return. Given the new television deals that are coming down and given that live sporting events seem to be the last thing people will pay a premium to advertise on I would be shocked if the current ownership doesn’t quickly double their money. Wouldn’t it make some sense that if the public foots $250,000,000 of this cost that the public also gets to split any profits with the owners on the sale of the franchise in the future. Given that they get other tax breaks like an exemption from property taxes that doesn’t seem like asking for much.

    – The biggest problem I have with that people aren’t acknowledging the real reason this is being done is for the Bucks to capture more revenue because why should individual businesses like the Mader’s and Buck Bradley’s etc. get revenues they could have. It’s pretty well known that the Admirals will not be playing in a new facility. Marquette will play there because they have no other options (although based on attendance they should be at Mecca for most games). Contrary to popular opinion we aren’t missing out on concerts because of the BC we are missing out because it’s easier to stage 2 dates in Chicago than come here. How is an arena that is actually smaller going to have more appeal to a tour? Wouldn’t you just play the United Center that seats 24,000 people than this one that will seat 17,000.

    – People need to keep in mind that basically any business can make the argument the Bucks are. Northwestern Mutual Life is a huge financial asset for the community and probably more so than the Bucks are. How much should we give them for their new building? Should my business get some measure of financing to buy a building if we threaten to leave? I get we’re not as important as the Bucks, but we just need $250,000 and can finance it through the taxes we pay.

  23. Steve says:

    As Bruce pointed out, the NEWS it that the whole project which many Milwaukeans thought dubious at 30 million has been in effect rejected by the whole state and dumped onto the most overburdened or speculative sources. Adding to Marie’s wise summary are two more in my opinion worthy options: 1- Call the big financial and political players bluff and test the real value to the State Budget large tax revenues from NBA Players salaries. Do they really think the NBA is a goldmine? If so they should be able to contribute all those tax increases to stay revenue neutral. And really, remember when the introduction of gaming was going to radically improve Education funding? TOO SCARY? 2- If an NBA team in the state is such a great business opportunity why don’t WE (city of Milwaukee) buy the Team ourselves akin to the GreenBay Packers model? Apparently we’d just have to borrow half a billion, which seems like chicken-feed in today’s venture capital markets!

    If we lose the Bucks will we really lose bucks? All the complicated plans tell me that the BUCKS are simply not actually profitable….

  24. Marie says:

    Mike, great points, esp. about the realities about fan attendance (rarely mentioned). Ticket prices will only rise in a new arena, making it even less affordable for most people.

    However, NML may not be the best example about subsidies. They’re getting $73 million in TIF credits, reportedly most in MKE history. Of course, their presence is huge for downtown, but subsidies can become a type of arms race. One reason sports teams keep raising their demands is that they tell cities, “Look what ABC Town gave that team.” But no small business gets to make those demands, which is why there’s every more burden shifted to small businesses and taxpayers at large.

  25. Dan says:

    Two thoughts:
    i have never understood about this “spin off” development. So that will be owned by the Bucks owners as well? Is that correct? So instead of people going to private businesses that pay taxes the bucks will get all the money? And they get all the parking revenue too? How is this helpful to all of the people running entertainment businesses in downtown.

    The State legislature is so concerned that people who use things like parks would pay for them. So why is there no disc ion about the people who use this facility paying for it. Add a 10% construction fee to every ticket sold, every luxury box leased, every concession and marketing trinket sold. If the auxiliary development is also built to benefit this privately held company, they can collect that construction fee as well. Why would this not be the fAirest way to pay for it and be consistent with republican views.

  26. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Milwaukee, run by white, male, liberal, racists as Bruce Murphy will agree, is attacking the problems of MPS, crime, jobs for youth, heroin, abandoned houses, corruption etc. by building a trolley and an Arena, when the cop shop is down 250 officers. If that was happening in
    Tosa, West Allis there would be a revolt, and the stupid Left just applauds,

  27. A'Mo says:

    The devil is always in the details. Once a small town mayor who had a history of mass clearing 100s trees boosted to my face about how they have planted almost double the trees lost. On the surface that seemed pretty great. What he always failed to mention was the trees removed for “progress” more so for #PROFIT development were an avg age of 25-50 y/o. Akin to replacing a seasoned executive with a Kindergartener…. Hearing there will be NO NEW Taxes is the same. I immediately thought ok great then it occurred to me wait one damned minute, WHERE are they STEALING yes STEALING the $$ from to pay for this arena. If our children’s education, our health, our streets, our very essence is not as important as an arena, which I agree we need to keep, then if people are not willing to a TRICKLE DOWN chip in on this, why in the hell should we agree to it in other aspect? Absolute worst legislative body elected ever! #NoVISION

  28. Tom D says:

    Kyle (posts 8 and 11):

    It is NOT true that “Milwaukee’s representatives argued against state funding” as you claim (and Bruce Murphy neither said nor implied that they did).

    The only Democrats named in the Washington Post story are Jon Erpenbach (Dane County) and Robert Wirch (Racine and Kenosha Counties).

    The Washington Post story Murphy quoted from is here:

  29. M says:

    The proposed funding deal is rife with convoluted financing schemes. Even right-wing talk-radio hosts and others have noted that they seem similar to the risky deals that led to the Great Recession, as promoted by hedge-funders and others.

  30. Mike says:


    You’re correct that NML is getting a TIF. I’ve always been conflicted on TIF’s. On the one hand I can see their value in trying to force growth in a certain area, but oftentimes they are used for well connected developers.

    Having said that, at least NML will be paying property taxes. The Bucks are essentially getting a TIF, but never have to pay the taxes to pay it back.

    I know people will say “but what about the income taxes”. Maybe that’s valid, but any business can make the same claim.

  31. Marie says:

    Mike–and I was shocked that the Bucks don’t pay any rent (on a building they’ve never invested in–tho MU & Admirals do. And they get massive shares of all revenue. That appears to be one reason the BC is in so much debt despite being donated.

    I suspect the major-league cartels help to secure these deals skewed in favor of teams. Brewers reportedly pay about $1.1M in rent but then the City sends them $1 a year (beyond what’s collected with the sales tax). Not a bad deal.

    I’m sure TIFs are complicated but I suspect power is often in play.

    There’s a big article today in JS on the Bucks master plan for arena-area development, but not much yet known about who will pay for what. It sounds like tons of new bars, taverns & dining. How will it affect Third Street to have twice as many venues overnight? And will the public be funding that development or will the Bucks cover it & manage all those tenants?

  32. Bruce Murphy says:

    Note to WCD: please don’t put words in my mouth. I don’t agree that white liberal racists run Milwaukee and honestly, it’s too silly to take seriously, and makes no sense in the context of this issue where you have bipartisan support for funding the arena and liberals and conservatives on both sides of the issue — and all, I might add, with serious arguments to make.

  33. Sylvan says:

    Tim, your dream is my nightmare. There’s no point in dreaming of MLS or NHL. If Miwaukee loses the Bucks it will be another casualty of Walker and Koch Industries’ push for monopoly control of the state. A year ago Walker was jostling for donations, using backhanded comments to show his loyalties. I thought the historic sports bias in Wisconsin conservatism would at least protect the Bucks, but if you aren’t with Walker, you’re screwed in Wisconsin. If the Bucks go, no team will fill the void. No self-respecting organization wants to get involved in a risky financial venture. Wisconsin is as appealing as Afghanistan.

  34. T says:

    Any politician who supports giving public money to the billionaire owners of the Bucks should be defeated at the next election. Democrat or Republican, if they support giving a penny to this project, throw them out. The billionaires who own the Bucks are among the richest people in America. They don’t need a public subsidy.

    This is almost as outrageous as the giveaway to the Brewers for Miller Park. Look at how that White Elephant has paid off in spinoff development and high quality jobs. What a joke.

  35. Milwaukeean says:

    I have said this before about my home town, and I will say it again…”entertainment” will not bring a larger population to Milwaukee. Jobs will.

    A larger population brings people. People bring money. Money brings the extras, like entertainment.

    Milwaukee cannot currently support what it wants, period. Even if the City could have supported it at one time, it just simply cannot today.

    This entire entertainment issue in Milwaukee is like a homeless person trying to finance a beachfront property.

  36. La Mer says:

    Comments 27 and 35: Truth!

    Doug Pappas wrote about Detroit’s and Milwaukee’s stadium deals back in ’95-’97:

    and here we are with more of the same: same corrupt lobbyists leaning on the same two parties’ political lackeys until they decree another stadium financing deal regardless of what the people want, which takes more money from the people who did not want the stadium in the first place, regardless of whether the American city itself goes down a decade later in a sham bankcruptcy/receivership like Detroit (or it goes down to wherever Milwaukee’s headed, maybe hell in a handbasket)?

    Wrigley Field must be 100 years old and still standing strong in its surrounding neighborhood.

    Yes, competition at this level of sports can be intoxicating, sweeping up masses of people in the emotions of the game; I would rather have healthy forests, local jobs with real wages, good food growing in the earth, unpolluted water, clean air, relatively unmolested Nature and a sane economy, which this is not.

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