Some Republican legislators balk at Evers’ American Family Field funding proposal

American Family Field
American Family Field

Last updated on February 16th, 2023 at 12:57 pm

After Gov. Tony Evers announced a proposal to use $290 million from the state’s surplus to fund improvements to American Family Field in Milwaukee Tuesday morning, it remains unclear whether the proposal will actually gain traction amongst the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature.

Republicans and Democrats on the state’s Joint Committee on Finance shared mixed feelings on the proposal, but a fair portion of the budget committee members expressed frustration saying the governor isn’t working with the Legislature on the proposal and too much taxpayer money we be spent under Evers’ plan.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos expressed frustration with Evers, saying there was not any attempt at collaboration before the proposal was unveiled. But Vos did say both sides of the aisle would continue to work on keeping the Brewers in Milwaukee.

“When the Bucks had a similar situation, Democrats and Republicans worked together to find a solution on the best path forward. Instead, Governor Evers drops this bomb in the budget, never mentioning or attempting to collaborate with the Legislature in any way,” said Vos. “These are typical antics for him not being a leader but rather dictating exactly what to do and how to do it. Governor Evers’ style makes it difficult to generate consensus. I look forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that the Brewers stay in (Wisconsin).”

Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, said Evers’ proposal is one of many ideas that will be considered by the Legislature in creating a budget, but kept his feelings on the stadium improvement funding proposal under wraps.

“The governor’s Brewers proposal, like all of the other things he has leaked before his budget address, is just an idea. The Legislature will write the budget and we will work with our colleagues throughout the state to explore our options and build a budget that makes sense for everyone in Wisconsin,” said Marklein.

Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, called Evers’ American Family Field proposal a way to “fleece taxpayers” of part of the state’s $7 billion surplus. He said regardless of who drafts a budget, if it is bad for taxpayers, he will oppose it. Nass also conveyed dissatisfaction with how much money Evers is looking to spend through his various budget proposals, saying he would not be surprised is Evers showed up to give his biennial budget address “dressed as Santa Claus.” Among Tuesday’s announcements from Evers was another proposal to increase funding to Wisconsin K-12 schools by $2.6 billion.

“While I am certain that the Republican Legislature will eventually set aside Evers’ 2023-2025 biennial budget proposal, there is still a danger that even the majority party in crafting its own two-year spending plan may be blinded by the piles of one-time cash,” said Nass.

Rep. Mark Born, R- Beaver Dam, said he also is dissatisfied with Evers’ approach to making budget recommendations.

“It’s disappointing Governor Evers is continuing his go-it-alone approach, instead of working with the Legislature on solutions to challenges our state is facing. I want to see the Brewers stay here in Wisconsin, and I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to identify solutions,” said Born.

Democratic Sen. Melissa Agard, minority leader, had an opposing response to that of her peers. She said the proposal from Evers was a responsible use of a portion of the state’s surplus and emphasized the impact American Family Field has on the state’s economy.

“The organization supported more than 3,000 jobs last year, including 1,100 union jobs of Brewer and vendor employees,” said Agard. “Loving our Brewers isn’t a Democratic issue or a Republican issue and I’m hopeful this budget provision receives bipartisan support to maintain this cultural and economic cornerstone of Wisconsin.”

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce also issued a statement Tuesday saying the organization, which helped secure the funding to build what was then called Miller Park, appreciates the governor’s attempt at keeping the Brewers in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley praised Evers’ funding proposal for upgrades to American Family Field.

“The Brewers have been a wonderful partner to Milwaukee County from investing in our parks, gifting new amenities to baseball diamonds throughout the county, and encouraging the next generation of major leaguers to fall in love with the sport,” Crowley said. “Governor Evers’ budget will keep the Brewers in our region for another 20 years. Not only are the Brewers committed to improving Milwaukee County, but they are also undoubtedly an economic catalyst that other businesses and workers rely on throughout the year to be successful. In order to move Milwaukee County forward and improve life for our residents we need strong partners at every level of government. We are ready to be a strong partner with the governor and the state Legislature to improve the quality of life for our residents.”

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Ashley covers startups, technology and manufacturing for BizTimes. She was previously the managing editor of the News Graphic and Washington County Daily News. In past reporting roles, covering education at The Waukesha Freeman, she received several WNA awards. She is a UWM graduate. In her free time, Ashley enjoys watching independent films, tackling a new recipe in the kitchen and reading a good book.

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