MADISON — The Wisconsin Assembly on Tuesday, July 28th passed a bill to have taxpayers pay $250 million to help pay for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena in downtown Milwaukee.
The bill passed on a bipartisan 52-34 vote. The measure now goes to Governor Scott Walker -- who has been working with lawmakers to reach a deal.
The Wisconsin Senate passed the bill on July 15th with a 21-10 vote.
Under the agreement, current and former Bucks owners will pay $250 million toward the $500 million cost of the arena. The taxpayer portion will eventually grow to about $400 million over 20 years.
Supporters say the new arena will bring jobs to Milwaukee and help improve the economy of the state. They say a new arena will help the city and state continue to move forward.
Bucks coach Jason Kidd watched the debate from the Assembly gallery.
The Milwaukee Bucks released the following statement from President Peter Feigin on the Wisconsin State Assembly arena financing vote:
“Today, our collective effort to create a world-class sports and entertainment district in the heart of Milwaukee took a monumental step forward thanks to the bipartisan leadership of elected officials in Madison. We’re incredibly grateful for the commitment of state, county and city officials to work together in a historic fashion to help shape this public-private partnership. There’s still work to be done and we look forward to building on this progress with the city and county, but the passage of legislation today makes our future much clearer. The Bucks will not only remain home in Wisconsin, but we’ll soon begin a transformative economic development project that will help revitalize our community and region.”
"This is a great day. It's real promise. It's the vision of our owners, of Senator Kohl, of really the state of Wisconsinto invest in the city of Milwaukee, to build this state," Bucks President Peter Feigin said.
"You`re not gonna get a perfect project, by any means, from anywhere. However, this is the biggest opportunity we have to move our city forward and ultimately, move the entire state forward," Rep. Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee) said.
Perhaps the two most noticeable "no" votes Tuesday came from Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee).
Rep. Bowen wanted naming rights money to go toward construction costs -- and Brostoff said Milwaukee County has no set way to pay its $80 million share after the Senate removed a plan for the state to collect unpaid debt within the county.
How Milwaukee County will pay its share remains one of the unanswered questions as it relates to the new Bucks arena.
"The $80 million is gonna be a huge cut to Milwaukee County and I don`t know how it`s gonna be made up. No one`s set any contingency plan," Rep. Brostoff said.
"They can still use that opportunity with the state -- it`s just not mandated as part of this proposal," Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said.
Supporters say there will be answers in the future -- a future they say just got much brighter.
"Will the new arena be hosting NBA Finals games within a few years? I`m not one to predict but I think we look forward to our future. We have a chance to grow, get better each day and our goal is to hold that gold trophy in that new arena," Bucks Head Coach Jason Kidd said.
Governor Walker told reporters in Philadelphia Tuesday he will sign the Bucks arena funding bill.
As for Milwaukee County's share -- supporters say it's possible they'll come back in the fall and pass bills that will help Milwaukee County come up with the money needed to pay that $80 million.