Bucks Arena Plan Heads To Walker’s Desk After Passage In Assembly

$500M Proposal Approved In 52-34 Vote

An artist's rendering of the proposed Milwaukee Bucks arena. 
Courtesy of the Milwaukee Bucks.

The state Assembly approved a $500 million financing plan for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena Tuesday in a 52-34 bipartisan vote.

The legislation, which got Senate approval two weeks ago, now heads to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk. The governor was involved in crafting the original version of the financing plan, and has said he’ll sign the bill.

During the Assembly session, representatives from both sides of the aisle voiced their support for the measure. Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, said the vote weighed on her mind for some time, but she decided to support the plan in the end.

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“I believe this is a wise investment by the entire state of Wisconsin and the city of Milwaukee,” said Zamarripa. “It is my belief that this public-private partnership in funding for a new downtown arena and entertainment district will spur economic opportunity for the workers of my district for years to come.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos called the plan a “fair one.”

No opponents of the bill spoke on the floor. However, after the vote, Rep. Dave Murphy, R-Greenville, said in a statement that he was disappointed by the passage of the plan.

“I cannot in good conscience put taxpayers on the hook for an arena in Milwaukee that the state shouldn’t be involved with in the first place,” he said. “The state should not be in the business of giving taxpayer money to millionaire basketball players and billionaire team owners.”

Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, D-Milwaukee, also voted against the measure. He released a statement Tuesday calling the plan a “bad deal” for his district and for Milwaukee County.

Under the plan, about $250 million for the project would come from public financing. Specifically:

  • $47 million would be contributed by the city of Milwaukee, partly through building a parking facility for the arena.
  • $55 million would come from state bonding.
  • $55 million would come from Milwaukee County through reductions in state aid.
  • $93 million would come from the Wisconsin Center District through tax collections.

The team’s current owners, along with former owner Herb Kohl, would then privately finance the rest of the project.

Public financing for a new arena in Milwaukee has been the subject of intense debate in the Legislature ever since Gov. Scott Walker originally proposed $220 million in borrowing to help pay for a new complex in his budget proposal. Supporters of the current financing package have argued that the project will be an economic boon to the area while keeping the Milwaukee Bucks in Wisconsin.

Opponents, however, have said that the economic impacts of building an arena are questionable, and that it doesn’t make sense to fund a new sports complex at a time when steep cuts are being made to the University of Wisconsin System and elsewhere in the state.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with information on the Assembly session.

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