Bucks Arena Legislation Passes Senate with Amendments

The State Senate has passed an amended version of the legislation that would allow a new arena to be built for the Milwaukee Bucks with state money.

The Senate passed the amended legislation, Senate Bill 209, in a 21-10 vote with very mixed party lines.

The Republican senators that voted for the legislation include Alberta Darling, Paul Farrow, Scott Fitzgerald, Rick Gudex, Sheila Harsdorf, Mary Lazich, Devin LeMahieu, Howard Marklein, Terry Moulton, Luther Olsen, Roger Roth, Duey Stroebel, Tom Tiffany, Leah Vukmir and Van Wanggaard. While, Republican senators Rob Cowles, Steve Nass, and Jerry Petrowski voted against the bill.

The Democratic senators that voted for the legislation include Jon Erpenbach, Nikiya Harris-Dodd, Chris Larson, Janis Ringhand, Jennifer Shilling and Lena Taylor. Democratic senators Janet Bewley, Tim Carpenter, Dave Hansen, Julie Lassa, Fred Risser, Kathleen Vinehout and Bob Wirch voted against the bill.

Senators Frank Lasee (R-De Pere) and Mark Miller (D-Monona) were not present.

The Assembly plans to take up SB 279 on July 28. However, Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke has said he would need 15 to 20 Democrats to vote for the bill if the legislation is going to pass and there may need to be further changes to the bill.

The central piece of the financing plan in the legislation expands the Wisconsin Center District’s (WCD) authority to issue up to $203 million in bonds. The state would provide grants to WCD of $80 million in general purpose revenue (GPR) over 20 years ($4 million each year), of which $55 million would support principal payments and $25 million would cover the interest. In addition, a second appropriation from the state will provide $4 million GPR each year for 20 years for grants to WCD, of which $55 million will cover principal payments and $25 million will cover interest payments. This second allocation, while similar to the first, would be offset by revenue from debts collected by Milwaukee County. The first $4 million annually received by the state would be transferred to the general fund.

Originally, this second allocation was offset by a requirement that the county be required to give revenue from the county’s debts collected over to the state. However the Senate amendment removes this provision, and instead the county’s aid appropriation will be reduced by $4 million, starting in 2016 and ending in 2035.

Another source of revenue included in the amendment is a ticket surcharge. A $2 surcharge will be added to each ticket sold. $1.50 will go to WCD and $0.50 will go to the state. Estimates show that this would increase GPR revenue by $500,000 a year for the state and $1.5 million a year for the district.

Other changes to the original legislation include modifications to tax exemption provisions. Sales tax exemptions for materials and services used to develop the arena would apply no later than year after the DOA Secretary certified the completion of the arena, as opposed to ending immediately after certification.

The amendment also included provisions stating the team and its affiliates would be responsible for improving the facility.

The amendment did not make any changes to the original language that modifies how TIF statute will apply to a first class city or the clawback provisions should the Bucks violate the development or non-relocation agreement.