Normally once an arena subsidy is approved, everybody stops paying attention until construction is actually underway and everyone can ooh and ahh about all the exciting glass planes and cupholders and what have you. Not, though, when it involves a Republican presidential candidate — and with pretty much the entire U.S. population having announced as a Republican presidential candidate, what doesn’t involve one of them?
And so we have the weekly parade of “Scott Walker is still a hypocrite about public spending” articles:
Tomorrow, Scott Walker will stand on a stage at State Fair Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and betray virtually every conservative economic principle there is by handing out up to $450 million in taxpayer money to wealthy sports owners to pay for private infrastructure at a time when public infrastructure is crumbling.
Governor Scott Walker’s fiscal conservatism will collide with the reality of sports-team subsidies tomorrow when he commits Wisconsin taxpayers to pay $400 million for a new basketball arena.
At Wednesday’s signing, the Republican presidential candidate’s message of being a tightfisted taxpayer champion will be weighed against public costs spread over 20 years.
All true enough, though it’s worth noting that being a self-proclaimed “tightfisted taxpayer champion” has never been a roadblock to approving spending on things that conservatives like.
Mostly, I’m excited that the Salon piece above actually accounts for the roughly $200 million in property tax breaks that the Bucks will be getting as part of the deal, instead of taking the official party line that it’s “$250 million in public money” as gospel. (Salon actually links to Field of Schemes as its source, which is fine, but I’d be happy however they calculated it so long as they included tax expenditures too.) Maybe, just maybe, we’re moving toward a time when the news media try to figure out the total costs of deals and report them that way, rather than take team owners and their political allies at their word. Wisconsin taxpayers would still be out $450 million, of course, but at least they’d have a better sense how much lighter their wallets were.