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Close to a deal? Walker to take part in Bucks arena funding meeting Thursday, plan could come after

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Are we close to a deal? For the first time, Governor Scott Walker will personally join stakeholders for a private meeting to discuss financing for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena. The meeting is set for Thursday, April 30th -- and Walker says a deal could come as soon as Thursday.

Walker says the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County will need to increase contributions in a "more meaningful way." He hopes a deal can be reached following Thursday's meeting.

"I`m going to personally be involved in that meeting (Thursday)," Walker said.

The Milwaukee Bucks have unveiled plans for a $500 million arena and a $500 million sports and entertainment complex.

The sports and entertainment district would be paid for mostly by private enterprises — but the arena requires public funding.

Governor Scott Walker’s funding plan calls for the state contributing $220 million in bonds — with some funds coming from players’ income taxes and $50 million coming from other sources, such as the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County. So far, the city of Milwaukee has offered $25 million. Milwaukee County hasn't offered a specific amount, but County Executive Chris Abele says he's willing to match the $25 million and possibly more.

Some lawmakers are calling Walker’s plan “dead on arrival” due to its price-tag.

Senator Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau)’s plan calls for the state contributing $150 million via a loan through the state’s “Public Lands Board.”

Milwaukee Alderman Bob Bauman has suggested Milwaukee County create a one percent sales tax. Bauman says the money would cover the public funding for the project, as well as other public needs, such as parks, cultural institutions and transit, things currently covered by property taxes. The one percent sales tax would put the sales tax in Milwaukee County at 6.6%, and Bauman believes Milwaukee County’s property tax levy would drop significantly.

Former owner Herb Kohl has pledged $100 million, and the new Bucks owners have pledged $150 million towards this project.

The state’s contribution ($150 million to $220 million), the city/county contribution ($50 million), and the pledges from Kohl and the new Bucks owners ($250 million) combined could come up short of the $500 million needed for the arena. If the state contributes $150 million, the total would be $450 million — $50 million short.

bucks arena funding

State legislative leaders are hoping the local contribution (from the city and county) will exceed $50 million.

"I don`t think it`s a matter of what the dollar amount is. I think in the end we want something where the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County are playing a meaningful role," Walker said.

Thursday's meeting comes after closed-door meetings last week in Madison and Milwaukee.

Public financing appears to be the sticking point when it comes to arena funding negotiations. Following a speaking engagement Wednesday afternoon, Walker reiterated he doesn't want to see a tax increase to help pay for the arena. He also maintained the Republican-controlled Legislature isn't willing to contribute more than $150 million in state dollars.

"If an arena isn`t moving forward by 2017, the NBA is going to take the team back from the current ownership," Walker said.

Walker says that should be concerning to taxpayers across the state. If the Bucks leave, Wisconsin will inherit the BMO Harris Bradley Center at a cost of $100 million. Walker says the ripple effect could be felt for years.

"By 2017, the hole in the state`s budget will be about $10 million a year for what NBA players pay in their income tax here in the state of Wisconsin each year," Walker said.

A specific time and location for Thursday's meeting haven't been announced.

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