Wisconsin pol says garnish wages of poor debtors to fund Bucks arena, because hell with those people

So remember how the state of Wisconsin proposed to help fund a Milwaukee Bucks arena by having the state go after $4 million a year in uncollected Milwaukee County tax debts, then it turned out this mostly meant shaking down poor people for money, then some senate Democrats complained that this would make them look bad, so the senate decided to leave it up to the county where to come up with the money? Well, now the arena bill has moved to the assembly, where at least one member thinks that garnishing the wages of the poor isn’t such a bad idea after all:

Republican Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis) says the remaining options are no better.

“It ties their hands and you’re left with two options: you either cut services or you raise property taxes countywide,” said Sanfelippo.

Sanfelippo says he will ask his party’s leaders to put the debt collection plan back into the bill.

“What we’re talking about primarily are people who willfully, knowingly, and purposefully just won’t pay their bills because they know they can get away with it,” said Sanfelippo.

Sanfelippo isn’t wrong that if you demand $4 million in county money for the Bucks, then the county needs to come up with $4 million somehow — though it’s worth noting that cracking down on debt collection would still be one option. (Not necessarily an option that would work, mind you, but an option.) And putting the debt collection plan back in the bill would likely cost Democratic votes, if not in the assembly then back in the senate, which would still need to sign off on a revised bill. So it’s probably a fair bet that the final plan will remain “punt it to the county with a $4 million a year invoice, let them figure it out,” but we’ll know more once the assembly votes next Tuesday.

16 comments on “Wisconsin pol says garnish wages of poor debtors to fund Bucks arena, because hell with those people

  1. Is there a source for those quotes (the links are FoS posts, save the last one and they aren’t in there)? Thanks.

  2. Sorry about that, link’s in there now:


  3. Thanks. Anyone from MKE perusing the comments by chance going to that Town Hall meeting tonight?

  4. Milwaukee can’t afford a new arena so the “leaders” are going to be debt collectors of the poor? Maybe, someone should offer free bankruptcy for these people and then where would Milwaukee collect the money from…… panhandlers in the streets? ABSURD

  5. Shawn: Many (probably most) of the people who haven’t paid their parking tickets wouldn’t qualify for bankruptcy because they have plenty of money. The whole controversy is just a political ploy to try to make Republicans look like heartless jerks. The GOP should call the Dems’ bluff, insert it back in the bill and let the Dem senators handle another avalanche of calls from Bucks fans prior to a re-vote.

  6. Little to none of it is parking tickets — mostly people paying their property taxes late, and failing to pay for ambulance rides. And much of that ends up collected eventually anyway, so really this is all just a way of pretending the county won’t be footing the bill out of general funds:


  7. Despite Sanfelippo’s tough talk, County Comptroller Scott Manske, who has held that job for over 20 years, said there are two main reasons for slow-paying of property taxes (which is most of the debt on the line): job loss and major illness. He also said the county DOES INDEED COLLECT most of its debt within a year or two and that turning it over to the state will cost the county more money in the long run. The county also works with its residents to come up with payment plans that allow them to stay in their homes, which state collection would jeopardize.

    County Exec Chris Abele could have learned all this before he floated his hare-brained scheme–if he bothered to talk to the county’s comptroller or treasurer. Instead, he finagled with Sanfelippo and his other GOP pals at the state (whose campaigns millionaire Abele funds). These state pols have been granting him more and more power for the past several years to the point he’s now known as King Abele.

    Now Abele’s just being petulant over being smacked down by the legislature over this and also being denied at the last minute to be allowed to sell Milwaukee’s premier lakefront overlook and town plaza for redevelopment. (He got his pol/pals to sneak that into the state budget after the county board shot down his scheme!) Yes, Abele is mighty mad at being thwarted once again in his attempts to sell off a public park for the benefit of a corporation. But the state still granted him authority to hand over 10 prime acres to the Bucks owners for $1 for their private development, so that’s some consolation.

  8. “What we’re talking about primarily are people who willfully, knowingly, and purposefully just won’t pay their bills because they know they can get away with it,” said Sanfelippo….

    Sounds like Sanfelippo is talking about the Bucks’ owner.

  9. Wow, Ben. It was obvious that you are opposed to the editorial position of this site. However, I didn’t expect you to put Scott Walker’s entire Koch in your mouth. There are actually conservatives who disagree with public financing of stadiums. (e.g. Cobb County and the Braves)

  10. I agree with Darin. MKE’s right-wing radio host Charlie Sykes has railed against this bill with for many cogent reasons. He offered alternatives and may have influenced the state Senate to at least mandate an existing ticket surcharge to pay off some public borrowing.

    The new paradigm is that parks, culture and other public goods should now all fully pay their own way with no public funding. Instead the public must fund for-profit ventures like sports cartels/franchises. Even with a winning team like in Cleveland, the public will get fleeced mercilessly for the pleasure of bragging rights. See Michael Powell’s column in the NYT sports section on 7/22…

  11. So to be clear, the state of Wisconsin & city/county of Milwaukee agreed to fund a new Bucks arena to the tune of MILLIONS of dollars…and only now are scrambling to find the money to fund the arena?!?! Turning over whatever rock they can to find the money?!? That’s some terrific fiscal management! I bet they don’t turn over every rock they can to find money to fund schools, police, fire department, et al.

  12. Neil, I would absolutely believe that the proceeds from debt collection won’t reach $4M/year. I’m just saying it’s BS to act like everyone who owes is impoverished.

  13. Get the best bang for the Bucks! Move the Bucks back in NBA time, to Sheboygan!! More value, more history, more economic impact, more statewide team support (ala Green Bay!). Support the move to Sheboygan!! http://www.facebook.com/sheboyganbucks