UPDATE: Progress made but still no deal on arena

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:14 pm

Gov. Scott Walker, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, several key leaders of the state Legislature and representatives of the Milwaukee Bucks met for about 90 minutes Thursday at the Milwaukee Athletic Club in an effort to hammer out a financing deal for a new downtown Milwaukee area. Afterwards, the participants in the meeting said it was productive and that they are making progress, but no deal is done yet.

“I really feel positive about the direction we are heading,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester.

“We’re this close,” said Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, as he held two fingers close together.

“It was a good meeting,” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau. “We will probably have some staff work that needs to be done. There are some numbers that need to be crunched. Every meeting we get a little bit more information and we get a little bit closer. I think we’re getting there with the work being done behind the scenes with the number crunching.”

“Once again people are acting in good faith trying to resolve the issue,” said Barrett. “It’s a complicated equation. We are trying to solve it. There still is work to be done. There’s a lot of moving pieces…(Leaders) understand this is important and needs to be done…All of us are trying to protect the taxpayers.”

GOP leaders in the Legislature want to include the arena financing plan in the state budget. The Joint Finance Committee is expected to have its work on the budget wrapped up by the end of May so it can be advanced to the full Legislature. State and local leaders are trying to get the arena deal finalized within the next few weeks so the Joint Finance Committee will be able to review it.

Rep. John Nygren, co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, participated in today’s arena summit.

“I think every day we get together we are a little closer,” he said. “We’re not there yet.”

State Secretary of Revenue Richard Chandler also participated in the meeting today, Fitzgerald said.

Walker spoke to the media before the meeting and said he was hopeful that the parameters of an arena financing deal would be established soon and that final details could be ironed out in a few weeks.

“We’ve had good progress,” he said.

The deal needs to be structured so there is no new tax created, Walker said.

The NBA has said that a new arena is needed in Milwaukee in order for the Bucks to stay here long term.

The owners of the Bucks and former owner Herb Kohl have pledged to pay for half of the estimated $500 million cost of a new arena. The Bucks owners also say they would be involved with an additional $500 million in ancillary development that would be built around the arena, which would be built just north of the Bucks current home, the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee is important to the state because if the team leaves the state will lose about $10 million in annual income tax revenue paid by the players, including the Bucks and players from visiting teams, Walker said. In addition the state would face a $100 million obligation for deferred maintenance and repairs to the Bradley Center, he said.

“Keeping the Bucks here in the state will be a net benefit to the state,” Walker said.

Participants in today’s meeting said little about how the public financing of the deal could be structured, but Fitzgerald again said that a state Board of Commissioners of Public Lands loan would likely be a major component.

Meanwhile, the Bucks resume their playoff series against the Chicago Bulls at the BMO Harris Bradley Center tonight.

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