Jeramey Jannene

Mayor Johnson Responds To Stadium Funding Deal

Milwaukee wants to see development by Brewers and no taxation without representation.

By - Sep 18th, 2023 02:09 pm
American Family Field. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

American Family Field. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Milwaukee Brewers financing plan from Republican legislative leaders isn’t getting a warm reception from Milwaukee City Hall.

“I’m happy there is a bipartisan push for the Brewers to stay here,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson in an interview. “Do I have issue with the local contribution? Yeah, I do. And not just with the local contribution, but with the makeup of the board itself.” He also took issue with the lack of development for the “sea of parking” that surrounds American Family Field.

The proposal, a substantially revised version of a state-only plan Governor Tony Evers released in February, requires the City of Milwaukee to contribute $2.5 million annually through 2050 to pay for stadium repairs.

While Speaker Robin Vos announced the $700 million deal while standing in front of a sign that said “no new taxes,” the deal is based on the city giving up millions from a new sales tax it won’t even begin to levy until 2024 and that was intended to right the city’s fiscal health.

A similar situation is playing out for Milwaukee County, which is expected to contribute $5 million annually from its new sales tax.

“As we all know, city residents are also county residents in Milwaukee, so we would be paying twice,” said the mayor. “And then our representation is removed.”

The current proposal calls for a new nine-member board to be established, with four appointees for the governor, two for the senate leader, two for the assembly speaker and one from the Brewers.

“That’s taxation without representation,” said Johnson.

The current board has 13 members: six appointees made by the governor, one by the mayor, two by the county executive and one appointee by each of the four suburban counties that levied the initial stadium tax.

“I would prefer that the number the city contributed was zero, but I understand that’s unlikely given the supremacy of state law,” said the mayor. “If the city is going to be required to make a contribution, than the city should retain representation on the stadium district like we did in the past.”

On Monday, Vos said he would be willing to compromise with the mayor on the appointments, but only so far as giving one of the governor’s appointments to the mayor.

Stadium Development Needed

Johnson pointed to the success of the Deer District neighborhood next to Fiserv Forum as something that should be looked at for the ballpark.

“The Brewers should really consider, and we should really use this conversation to push them, to have development around American Family Field. I just think it makes sense. It puts us in line [with other cities]. It creates new revenue for the Brewers… and now because the City of Milwaukee is in a position where we are able to collect sales taxes, it puts us in a stronger position as well,

“I would like to challenge the Brewers, to challenge the organization to really consider, to really push out, this idea of building a district of American Family Field and not be surrounded by a sea of parking,” said the mayor. “You can still have parking, you can have parking structures, whatever, but there should be something more than just places to store cars.”

Vos said the deal does not require the Brewers to develop any of the land.

Johnson said the city was preparing to ask for changes to Act 12, the local government funding bill that authorized the Milwaukee sales taxes, as part of negotiating on the ballpark agreement.

“I think that there are opportunities in Act 12 that could allow us to make the contribution here,” said Johnson. “I think it’s important for the Legislature to be open to changes there so we can do what all of us really want to do, which is to keep the Brewers in playing.”

One potential change is the current inability to count police officers whose salaries are funded by federal grants towards the city’s state-mandated sworn strength increase. Johnson said that as a result of Act 12, the city will not pursue a federal COPS grant in 2024. The city has regularly used the grants in recent years to fund dozens of officers.

Act 12 also includes substantial restrictions on how the city can spend its sales tax revenue.

In July, council members Jonathan Brostoff, Lamont Westmoreland, Larresa Taylor, Mark Borkowski and Russell W. Stamper, II issued a press release saying they wouldn’t support a proposal to use city dollars to fund American Family Field. Alderman Robert Bauman told Urban Milwaukee in August that his expectation is that “it’s going to be crammed down our throats” and that the state would reduce shared revenue payments if the city didn’t give up its sales tax revenue.

In May, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to oppose any county-funded stadium subsidy.

County Executive Responds

In a statement issued Monday, Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley shared his thoughts on the new proposal.

“The Milwaukee Brewers are an important asset for our community. While I have yet to see the proposed legislation announced today, I look forward to discussions with partners in the Wisconsin State Legislature and I am willing to work with them to find a common ground, bipartisan solution,” said the County Executive. “However, it is important to recognize Milwaukee County is still facing a significant fiscal deficit over the next several years. Any new proposal by the State of Wisconsin must recognize that reality. I look forward to discussions with our State partners to identify a path forward that allows Milwaukee and the state to retain the Brewers, while providing Milwaukee County the resources to support our residents and communities in the years ahead.”

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Categories: Politics, Real Estate

4 thoughts on “Mayor Johnson Responds To Stadium Funding Deal”

  1. unakmtt25 says:

    This may work if there is a significant surcharge on any ticket sold to an out of Milwaukee County resident with the proceeds going to the City and the County. Same goes for access to the Lake, Fiserv Arena and any and all museums and libraries. The MSO too.

  2. CraigR says:

    So what are the “WOW” counties being asked to do?

  3. says:

    Fellow MKE citizens (and Brewer fans), there we have it- the next great train robbery. Flunky out-state pols carrying water for outta-state millionaires. I call on all of our local elected representatives to stand firm in opposition to this hold-up. I love baseball and regularly attend games but I know we have critical needs in the city and county that deserve our attention, and tax dollars. Let’s see who’s got the spine to stand up with us?

  4. Alan Bartelme says:

    @ CraigR – the WOW counties contribute nothing. That’s why the plan was drafted by someone from Ozaukee County (Rob Brooks). He’s a bar owner so certainly benefits from having local pro sports teams but doesn’t believe he should actually have to pay for that.

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