Arena Deal Is A “Pig in a Poke” for Milwaukee, Others Too

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The National Basketball Association (NBA) said the Milwaukee Bucks must have a new arena by 2017 or the city risks losing the team to another state. Enter Governor Scott Walker.

Gov. Scott Walker negotiated the deal in July with the current Bucks owners – billionaire hedge funds managers Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry, who jointly purchased a majority interest in the team from former senator Herbert Kohl – and senator Kohl.

The team is currently valued at $600 million. In a bipartisan vote last month, the Wisconsin Legislature approved a bill authorizing $250 million in state and local public financing for the Milwaukee Bucks arena. Governor Walker signed the bill into law on Wednesday, August 12, setting up a vote on the $500 million public/private project at a City of Milwaukee Common Council meeting on the proposal in September.

Walker’s signing of the bill commits the State of Wisconsin’s taxpayers to paying at least half of the dollar cost of the massive new arena over the next 20 years, discouraging the NBA from moving the team out of Milwaukee.

Opponents have said the public’s money would benefit the team’s already wealthy owners and is not a good use of public funds. The state’s financial commitment to keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee comes on the heels of controversial state cuts to spending on transportation infrastructure along with a $250 million cut of the University of Wisconsin System’s budget and historic earlier cuts to the state’s public K-12 education system. The state’s commitment to fund the arena was perceived by many Wisconsinites as a slap in the face to Wisconsin’s dwindling number of middle class families and its increasing number of low income families.  The governor has not been shy in showing his disdain for those who advocate for a higher minimum wage in Wisconsin – presently $7.25/hour, or the same as the federal minimum wage – and his budget approval of cuts to other social programs in Wisconsin which help the state’s disabled and low income populations.

Walker claimed Wisconsin needed to keep the team and its stream of income taxes in the state. “It’s cheaper to keep them,” he said repeatedly to reporters on Wednesday..

The Bucks deal includes $250 million in contributions from the state, city and county of Milwaukee, and a special arena and entertainment district. The other half of the arena is being paid by Edens, Lasry and Kohl.

State, city and county residents will ultimately pay $400 million on the arena when accounting for $174 million in interest over 20 years, with any construction cost overruns and maintenance expenses being the responsibility of the team.

Of the principal coming from taxpayers for the arena, $47 million would come from the City of Milwaukee, which must agree to provide for a parking structure and tax incremental financing.

The rest — $203 million — would come from: bonds issued by an arena and entertainment district and paid off by state taxpayers; a $4 million decrease in Milwaukee County’s state aid over the next 20 years; and the increase of a ticket surcharge and the extension of existing local hotel room, rental car, and food and beverage taxes being collected by the Wisconsin Center District.

Walker included $220 million in state borrowing for the arena in the budget he proposed in February.

But his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature took the measure out of the budget and reworked the deal with some input from Democrats.

Not factored into this analysis is the total number of tons of carbon dioxide (C02) and other greenhouse gases that will be emitted to the atmosphere by jet travel by other NBA teams traveling to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, nor the tons of C02 and other greenhouse gases emitted by the jets carrying the Bucks to distant locations over the next 20 years to play basketball. Nor does the agreement factor in the costs to the environment of paving roads and Wisconsin’s landscape to accommodate more travelers to the arena for games and other events and their emissions.  Presently, travelers and the airlines and associated companies are getting a “free lunch” from everyone who might be affected by those emissions, to say nothing about the cost to the public of funding the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic controllers, who mainly benefit people who can afford to fly commercially or privately.

Part of this post are taken from a 8/12/15 story of by Mary Spicuzza, Jason Stein and Crocker Stephenson of the Journal Sentinel.

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About Mike Neuman

Environmentalist; Father; Senior Citizen; Husband, School Crossing Guard; Green Bay Packer Fan; Wisconsin Badger Fan; Animal Lover; Humanitarian

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