Politics

Wisconsin Governor Uses Public Funds On New NBA Stadium After Slashing State University Budget

| by Ethan Brown
Gov. Scott Walker.Gov. Scott Walker.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced a half billion dollar deal with the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team that would provide the team with a new stadium funded by the organization and Wisconsin taxpayers.

The deal, which will use $250 million in taxpayer funds, has been criticized by some since the Republican governor cut $250 million in public funding from Wisconsin's state university system this year.

The governor, along with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat, repeatedly warned about the financial disaster that would occur if the Bucks moved out of Wisconsin to another state when its contract expires in 2017.

In April 2014, longtime Bucks owner Herb Kohl sold the team to new owners in a deal that allotted the team a new arena to be built in Milwaukee over the next three years. If the stadium is not built by the deadline, the NBA will purchase the team from the new owners and move to a new location, Fox 6 Now reported.

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Walker has stated if the team moves out of Wisconsin, the state will lose an estimated $419 million over the next two decades due to loss of revenue the arena generates every year, future revenue that would be able to come from the new stadium and the constant maintenance of the current stadium, the Bradley Center.

The organization will pay for half of the costs, or $250 million, with any cost overruns also being taken care of by the team’s executives. The other $250 million will come from state residents, state governments and the city of Milwaukee.

Walker’s plan is not going over well with many taxpayers. Most are concerned about the cost of the new stadium rather than the economic lag that would occur if the team were to relocate. Even Republicans have vocally been opposed to the idea.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group led by the billionaire Koch brothers, released a statement of disapproval of the plan:

“Our position remains unchanged: The new Buck stadium proposal is still a bad deal for Wisconsin taxpayers. Government shouldn’t be in the business of financing private sports stadiums. The current deal is based on fuzzy math, complicated accounting and taxpayer dollars. Whether it comes from the state, the county, the city or other authority, these are taxpayer dollars. This proposal needs to be rejected and the people of Wisconsin need to be protected.” 

Barrett was pleased with the outcome of the funding process and stood by Walker when the plan was revealed.

“What we have here is something I can take to my taxpayers and say ‘Look, we have to make sure this gets done and we have to make sure this gets done in a way that’s fair to you,’” the Democrat said.

It is unclear if the plan will make it to fruition, as Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature both have voiced skepticism over the costs. In any event, the state budget must be approved by the end of June.

Sources: Fox 6 Now, Fox Sports, Americans for Prosperity

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr