State report estimates impact of ‘jock tax’ for new arena

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:15 pm

If the state designated income tax paid by National Basketball Association players and team employees to cover the public’s costs for building a new arena in Milwaukee, the funds could support approximately $150 million in state general obligation bonding, according to a new Legislative Fiscal Bureau report.

The report was requested by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester).

The report outlined the impact of a so-called “jock tax.”

The Bucks have generated commitments for at least $300 million from the private sector. The additional $150 million in public funding would likely be enough to finance the costs of building a new arena, which have been estimated at about $450 million.

Vos issued the following statement: “For months, I have had thoughtful discussions with the Milwaukee Bucks and was gathering information from the organization. Like any business considering moving out of Wisconsin, it’s important to first examine the business’ impact on the state’s bottom line. Unfortunately, over the past few days, liberals are attempting to smear the process. In the end, the facts will rule the day and not politics…NBA players paid $10.7 million in income taxes to the state of Wisconsin in 2012. The memo also points out how much the state could support in general obligation bonding. This is one viable option that the Legislature could consider. One fact that hasn’t changed is that any option that includes taxpayer resources will be a tough sell in the conservative Assembly Republican caucus. I continue to hear from members and my own constituents who are hard-pressed to giving away precious taxpayer dollars with so many demands on our resources. Moving forward we will examine all the options and ultimately do what’s best for Wisconsin and its taxpayers.”

However, the notion of using state income tax dollars, even if they would be collected by NBA players in Milwaukee, drew immediate opposition from Assembly Majority Leader Elect Jim Steineke (R–Kaukauna).

Steineke issued the following statements: “Earlier this week, Speaker Vos indicated that state funding for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena would be a tough sell to our caucus members. I agree with the Speaker. When you examine this issue and how it has played out in the past with public funding for Lambeau Field and Miller Park, local or regional taxpayers footed the bill. In this case, the new Bucks owners are asking the entire state to pick up a portion of the tab. This is a vast departure from the way we have operated in similar circumstances in the past. Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature who live well outside of the Milwaukee area would have an extremely difficult time explaining to our constituents why they should give their hard-earned tax dollars to billionaire owners of a sports franchise when they will likely never even attend one of their games. It is my sincere hope that we are able to find a way to keep the Milwaukee Bucks in Wisconsin as the existence of a sports franchise in the community does add value to the local economy. I’m sure the Legislature will be open to look at options that will help accomplish this, but it is much more likely to get support if taxpayers from outside of the region are not stuck with the tab.”

Vos recently criticized Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry for showing up at General Mitchell International Airport to greet President Barack Obama in Milwaukee on Oct. 28.

Vos said Lasry’s appearance “did not make my job easier” in terms of convincing Republican lawmakers to support a possible financial plan to build a new arena in Milwaukee.

“It’s a tough sell when you’re asking for millions of dollars,” Vos said.

To view the memo from the LFB, visit

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