The final Milwaukee Bucks arena plan as it will be submitted to the state legislature was indeed released yesterday, and it looks an awful lot like what was reported last week. The final tally, with newly revised items in italics:
- $55 million in state bonds, to be repaid out of general funds. (With interest this would be $80 million in payments over time, but present value is still $55 million.) Nobody is bothering to tie this anymore to future NBA player income taxes, but either way it’s just straight state spending.
- $20 million from the state to pay off the remaining bond debt on the Bradley Center.
- $93 million in bonds sold by the Wisconsin Center District, with payments to be drawn from various county taxes that currently go to fund the district’s other expenses. By delaying payment on the bonds until starting in 2028, the district’s actual costs would rise by about another $50 million.
- $55 million in uncollected county revenues ($4 million a year over 20 years, again coming to $55 million in present value) that the state will somehow find a way to collect. Much of that money, however, is owed not to the county itself but as restitution money to victims of crimes, reports Urban Milwaukee’s Bruce Murphy, and a good chunk of the rest may simply be uncollectible; if the state can’t collect it, the county would have to come up with it out of its own budget.
- $47 million from the city in tax-increment financing (kicked-back property taxes on new development around the arena) and cash, for a new parking garage and other stuff.
- Lots of free land, value as yet undetermined.
- The Bucks owners would be responsible for any cost overruns above this amount.
- There would be a “clawback” provision allowing the public to recoup some of its costs if the Bucks left Milwaukee anyway. (It’s unclear whether this means that the Bucks would not have to sign a long-term lease as part of the deal.)
That comes to at least $320 million in public money, pretty much all of it coming from revenue streams that are now being used, or that could be used, to pay for other public needs. Gov. Scott Walker declared yesterday that lost player income taxes over the next 20 years if the team left plus maintenance costs for the Bradley Center over the next 10 years — I don’t know why taxpayers would need to spend big bucks to maintain a building with no team playing in it, but let’s run with it — would come to $419 million, a figure that as the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel put it, “has not been independently analyzed.” Or as Jake’s Economic TA Funhouse somewhat more snippily put it:
The $120 million in maintenance figure seems to have come straight out of Walker’s ass. The Journal-Sentinel article says the number is closer to $20 million, and reality indicates that would be less need to pay for maintenance in a Bradley Center facility which wouldn’t have 45-50 Bucks games a year to host.
Jake also notes that a good chunk of the losses from not having NBA players around to tax could well be made up for by having locals spending on other things, which would increase income for people in those industries, which could then be taxed, etc.
Anyway, this is Walker & Co.’s offer; now the trick is seeing whether city, county, and state legislators will go for it. Initial reports from the J-S were decidedly meh:
“I don’t really have a handle yet on where the support is,” [Senate Majority Leader Scott] Fitzgerald said, underlining the uncertainty. “It’s difficult to gauge right now.”…
“I’m not a believer in government supporting sports arenas for millionaire players and billionaire owners,” Rep. David Murphy (R-Greenville) said. “This is a deal that needs to be vetted very well. The tires need to be kicked and maybe not with one foot but two.”
The Milwaukee city council will be holding a meeting at 1:30 pm today on the arena plan, so maybe we’ll be able to gauge legislator sentiment a bit better after that, though it’s the state senate that’s expected to be the heavy lift. Legislative Joint Finance Committee chair Sen. Alberta Darling told the J-S she might not even hold a budget meeting until after next week so she and other can have “time to sell it to their fellow Republicans” (in the J-S’s words), so read into that what you will.
Finally, it’s worth at least a mention that the Koch brothers, who have been Walker’s biggest boosters for his attempts to cut pretty much everything from the state budget, are not fans of the Bucks arena plan, presumably because it doesn’t involve cutting things from the state budget. This is either a sign that the Kochs don’t actually own our entire political system, or that they’re willing to give Walker a pass on the Bucks arena so long as he’s with them on more important things, like busting public-employee unions. I’m guessing the latter, but if you need to cheer yourself up today by believing the former, be my guest.