The state Senate today cobbled together a bipartisan coalition to pass legislation funding maintenance at the Milwaukee Brewers stadium after adding a new amendment to increase a ticket tax on non-baseball events to help drive down the state’s contribution.
AB 438 and AB 439, which include the funding and the policy provisions on the package, passed on identical 19-14 votes and were sent to the Assembly. That chamber passed the bills 72-26, sending the measures to Gov. Tony Evers’s desk.
Immediately after the Assembly signed off on the revisions, Evers said he would sign the legislation.
“As a lifelong Brewers fan, I always believed that we could work together to find common ground and build bipartisan support to keep this team and critical economic driver right here in Wisconsin, and today, that’s exactly what we did,” the guv said.
GOP state Sen. Dan Feyen, a co-author of the bills, pitched the package as a win for the state. He said state and local tax collections over the life of the deal from having the Brewers in Milwaukee will total $880 million, far more than taxpayers are putting in. He also argued the bill will benefit more than just the Milwaukee area. One provision of the bill would lower how much the Department of Revenue keeps through an administrative fee for collecting local sales taxes and sending them to local governments. He said that’s $7 million more a year for local governments.
“This is a good deal for baseball fans, a good deal for taxpayers, and a good deal for the state of Wisconsin,” said Feyen, R-Fond du Lac.
But Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, ripped it as a bad deal for the public.
At one point during the proceedings, Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, objected to bringing one of the bills to a vote. The chamber voted to override his objection, which also cut off the opportunity to offer amendments to the bill. That prompted complaints from some members, including Larson.
Larson argued the Legislature should make a series of changes, including a provision in the lease that requires the stadium to remain in the top 25 percent of facilities in Major League Baseball for amenities. He said that will continue to suck money from taxpayers and predicted the team will be back again seeking billions down the road when it wants a new stadium.
“This is not the last at bat for the Brewers and taxpayers,” Larson said.
Ahead of today’s floor vote, the bill included a $2 surcharge on general admission tickets for non-Brewers events and $8 for luxury suites. The amended bill adopted today ups those surcharges twice over the life of the 27-year deal.
The tax on general admission tickets would climb to $3 in 2033 and $4 in 2042. The surcharge on luxury suites would go to $9 in 2033 and $10 in 2042.
The revised ticket tax would bring in $20.7 million through 2050, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. The original ticket surcharge was expected to generate $14.1 million.
That would drop the state’s contribution to $365.8 million of the nearly $700 million package. Under a previous version of the bill, the state’s share was to be $386.5 million.
Milwaukee County and the city would combine to contribute $135 million over the 27 years of the deal, while the team would put in $110 million in new money.
The substitute amendment also would add four more appointments to the stadium district board, which would make it a 13-member body.
The original nine appointments would include four by the majority party leaders in the state Legislature and four by the guv. The ninth member would come from a list of no less than three people the Brewers would submit to the guv.
The change would add four more appointments: one for the Senate majority leader, one for the Assembly speaker and two more from the guv. Milwaukee County and the city would each submit names to the guv to fill those final two spots. The change means the guv and the Legislature will each get six appointments to the board.
Under the substitute amendment approved today, the guv’s appointments wouldn’t be subject to Senate confirmation.
The amendment sought to address two concerns raised heading into today’s vote: that the state was putting too much into the deal and that Milwaukee County and the city didn’t have any representation on the district board despite being required to pitch in for the cost.
In the end, 11 Republicans and eight Dems voted for the bills.
The senators who voted against the bills were: Julian Bradley, R-Franklin; Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee; Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay; Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield; Andre Jacque, R-DePere; Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield; Dan Knodl, R-Germantown; Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee; Steve Nass, R-Whitewater; Romaine Quinn, R-Cameron; Rob Stafsholt, R-New Richmond; Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee; Pat Testin, R-Stevens Point; and Van Wanggaard, R-Racine.