Hub for reliable, timely news about COVID-19 pandemic

Menominee bucks for the Milwaukee Bucks? Lawmakers sound off on arena funding offer

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.
Data pix.

MADISON (WITI) -- Menominee bucks for the Milwaukee Bucks? Two of the biggest economic development projects in Wisconsin history are now linked. The Menominee Nation and Hard Rock International offered on Tuesday, February 10th to help pay for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena if Governor Scott Walker reverses course and approves an $800 million casino in Kenosha that would create 10,000 jobs. Walker said "no" to the proposed Kenosha casino last month. The plan is being called a "game changer" by some -- and by others, a half-court shot at the buzzer. Lawmakers in Madison weighed in on Tuesday.

Governor Scott Walker is in London this week on a trade mission.

"We have this waiting for him when he comes back and we`re just saying -- 'Governor, say yes,'" Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said.

Several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are offering their support for the Menominee Tribe and Hard Rock International as they hope Governor Walker will change his mind on the Kenosha casino.

"I believe this additional offer is another game changer," Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem) said.

That offer is $220 million towards a new Bucks arena IF Governor Walker reverses his decision against the proposed Kenosha casino. While the proposal gives Rep. Barca and Rep. Kerkman hope, it worries others.

"This sets a dangerous precedent in government. You cannot come to the Capitol and say 'we`ll pay you x, but we need to get y,'" Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) said.

While it remains to be seen how Governor Walker will react to this latest development, Rep. Goyke says the offer doesn't change his mind.

"I`m not buying this last attempt to spend $220 million to reverse the governor`s decision," Rep. Goyke said.

Lawmakers in favor of the casino say there is still a very real possibility Governor Walker wont reverse his decision, and if that happens, there could be a bit of a domino effect.

"I'm used to the Democrats coming up with negative opinions on Walker. I have never heard as many angry Republicans in my district as this," Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Kenosha) said.

Besides his popularity, some lawmakers say if Governor Walker doesn't take this proposal, it could affect how they vote on his proposal to partially fund the arena with a "jock tax."

"It makes that decision a whole different decision on where I'm going to be in the 'yes' or 'no' column," Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says he feels like the decision has already been made.

“I think perhaps if that offer had been made six months or a year ago, people would be looking at it in a different light. I think what's actually happened here is the decision has been made. And I think the eggs have already been scrambled and I just don't see any way that the state's gonna open up that debate. I would be very surprised by that. I think perhaps if that offer had been made six months or a year ago, people would be looking at it in a different light. But it's clear that the governor announced his decision and barring a total reversal, that I don't see happening,  I think that that's a settled matter," Mayor Barrett said.

Again -- Walker is in London this week. His spokesman has issued the following statement to FOX6 News:

"It’s important to note that Governor Walker's "Pay Their Way" plan for the new arena protects current taxpayer dollars. The $220 million would not come from current GPR.  Rather it is in the form of an appropriation bond to be paid back by projected growth in income taxes from the Bucks, as well as visiting teams, due to salary increases and new TV contracts.  Once the bonds are paid off, tax growth would return to the state.

Governor Doyle’s compacts with the tribes open up the State of Wisconsin to significant litigation risks.  Due to those compacts, the long-term economic hit to the state budget would be a potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars."

"From the county's perspective, it sounds like good news. We'll see what the impact is with the Potawatomi. That's part of it. The Potawatomi contribution every year to the city and the county -- that's not insignificant," Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said.

Governor Walker’s final decision on the Kenosha casino proposal is due on February 19th. Officials with the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs have said they would give full consideration to a second review and determination from the governor by that deadline.

Related stories:

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.