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Arena financing deal: Speaker Vos says he has the votes in the Assembly, but what about the Senate?

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MADISON -- Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he has enough votes to pass a financing plan for a $500 million Milwaukee Bucks arena that relies on $250 million from state and local taxpayers. It's unclear whether there are enough votes in the Senate.

Vos on Monday, June 29th released the draft of the proposal along with an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. It comes nearly a month after the outline of the deal was first announced by Gov. Scott Walker and others.

Bucks arena funding deal

CLICK HERE to read the draft of the arena legislation

CLICK HERE to read summary of plan to finance a downtown arena

The highlights of this proposal have been known -- but this is the first time the full language of the proposal can be seen by the public.

"I think we are in a much better position today than we were," Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) said.

"I think overall for the state taxpayers, the negotiations are a success," Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) said.

Under the terms of the deal, $55 million would come from the state. The $55 million will more or less match contributions from the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County. The remainder will come from the Bucks owners and the Wisconsin Center District.

"Limit as much we could the state`s liability and have the locals pick up the lion`s share of the costs going forward," Rep. Steineke said.

"While this is definitely a good-faith effort of the negotiating process, there are good ideas that could be left on the table -- and we're always willing to look at those to see if there's a deal that's possible, that's better for taxpayers; that provides different opportunities to get to the same end," said Vos. "I think the three of us and our entire caucus share the same goal -- and that's to have the least expensive option for the state, while providing the best possible venue; not just for the Bucks, but for Marquette and for people who live in southeast Wisconsin to have what's really a first-class entertainment attraction in a first-class city."

"We would lose money if (the Bucks) leave. If they stay, we get an amenity and more revenue," Vos said.

It remains unclear whether the funding proposal will be part of the state budget or a separate, stand-alone measure.

"The Bucks arena is in the budget.  No Democrat is going to vote for the budget.  If they pull it out, that`s a whole other discussion," Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said.

Vos says the budget will not be passed by the deadline -- Wednesday, July 1st. That's the start of the new fiscal year.

Vos hopes to hear from Senate leaders by the end of the week.

The Senate will caucus on Tuesday, with the Assembly meeting on Wednesday.

Democratic support will likely be needed by the Republican-controlled Senate because this issue has divided even the GOP.

State Senator Chris Larson (D) issued the following statement on the Republican financing plan released on Monday:

“As I have said before, Democratic legislators from Milwaukee and across the state have been open to working with our Republican colleagues to negotiate a deal on the arena that is in the best interest of both the taxpayers and the city of Milwaukee. After a stunning failure of leadership from Governor Walker, it was only last week that Republican Senate leaders were willing to start preliminary discussions about the deal with those who directly represent the communities surrounding its proposed location. Today’s release by Legislative Republicans shows our efforts to bring transparency and public scrutiny to this issue are starting to succeed.

“However, considering Republicans are currently in control of all houses of government, it is absurd that with the budget deadline only two days away, we are just now seeing such a complex budgetary proposal.

“Like many across Wisconsin, I am still going through the details of the proposal. While I am eager to work to get the best possible Bucks deal for Wisconsin, it seems like Walker’s budget overall is a sinking ship and instead of working with Democrats to find a life raft, Republican leaders have abandoned ship.

“Democrats remain willing to work with Republicans on the arena deal, however, it is disappointing that our continuous calls for inclusion have been ignored.”

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett also weighed in on Monday, saying: "It`s imperative that the Legislature take this up and it`s imperative that we get this done."

Vos released the draft just three hours after he put forward a plan to scale back the state's prevailing wage law. Those are two of the larger issues that have led to a monthlong stalemate on passing a new state budget.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Business Journal is reporting the preliminary draft of the legislation calls for the Milwaukee Bucks signing a 30-year lease for the new Bucks arena with options to extend the lease by five years.

The preliminary draft also calls for the Bucks to acquire the BMO Harris Bradley Center and its property for an unspecified amount of money. The Bucks would then be responsible for demolishing it, the Milwaukee Business Journal reports.

Highlights beyond the Bucks lease include significantly expanding the Wisconsin Center District’s powers and transferring ownership of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.

CLICK HERE for more of the significant provisions from the preliminary draft legislation via the Milwaukee Business Journal.

BMO Harris Bradley Center

BMO Harris Bradley Center


  • Fred

    If the tax payers have to foot the bill there should be a referendum vote. If the local school wants a new gym there’s typically a vote in the district. Why isn’t this afforded the same democratic process? I hate it when somene else spends my money………

  • Croptastical!

    I told you that no matter how loudly you scream, you and your children will be paying for a new arena thanks to the Republicans that DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU.. And if you think it’s only going to cost $500 million, then you’ve never heard of cost overruns.

    • frankie

      You clearly have no idea of the plan in place by your comment. The overruns would be covered by the owners. Educate yourself on issues before you comment on them. And to think people uneducated as yourself are allowed to vote when you clearly don’t have any knowledge of certain issues…yeesh. Now wonder this country is headed down the drain

  • Wilson

    Don’t do it Vos. Make the billionaire owners build their own GD arena. Wisconsinites are just a bunch of rubes when it comes to this type of shell game by the city slickers from NY.

    • frankie

      New yorker investing hundreds of millionsof their own dollars into milwaukee and our state is a bad thing? Millions of dollars that will help develop an abandoned area that will create jobs and business therefore creating tax revenue. Tax revenue that won’texist otherwise. Not to mention the lost tax revenue that will leave the state Iif the bucks leave. The tax revenue lost from the other 300+ days a year that the new arena could bring in from concerts and other entertainment. Or how about the ccost tothe tax payers to repair and maintain the bradley center? Something to the cost of $200,000,000.

      Some of you people need to seriously educate yourself on the issues and details before you spew out your nonsense. It’spretty sad

  • Al P

    Hey Mr. Voss, don’t do it because if you do and Mr. Walker signs it he can forget about carrying Wisconsin in the Presidential race and he needs our state to win the election.

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