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News of the Day - 7/28/15

Assembly Should Have Votes to Pass Arena Plan

Top Republican leaders say they think they have enough votes to pass $250 million in public subsidies for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena when the proposal comes before the Assembly on Tuesday.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester said that he believed he had a majority of their GOP caucus and that fewer votes than normal would be needed overall because some legislators were on vacation for the vote, which is coming at an unexpected time.

"I think we've got 35 votes on our side," Vos said of Republicans. "That could go up. My hope is we don't have to amend it."

Normally, it takes 50 votes to pass a bill in the 99-member Assembly. But with a number of lawmakers missing, the minimum number could drop to as little as 45, meaning that Democrats would have to deliver in the neighborhood of 10, though Vos said that he continued to seek 15 to ensure passage.

The plan would preserve Milwaukee's stake in professional basketball but at a cost to state, city and county residents, who ultimately would pay $400 million, when accounting for interest over 20 years.

Supporters of the proposal say it would more than pay for itself by ensuring that the NBA players and staff will continue to pay income taxes in Wisconsin for decades to come. Opponents of the bill say it would benefit the team's already wealthy owners and would come as the state is cutting in other areas such as infrastructure and the University of Wisconsin System — investments they argue could also bring a return for taxpayers.

Bucks President Peter Feigin said he was hopeful but still waiting to see if there were enough votes in the Assembly. Like Vos, he said the team preferred to see the proposal pass in that house with no new amendments.

"For us, it's about accelerating the process," Feigin said.

Building the arena is expected to initially cost $500 million, with half coming from the public and half from the owners and former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, the team's previous owner.

Of the principal coming from taxpayers for the arena, $47 million would come from the City of Milwaukee providing a parking structure and tax incremental financing.

The rest — $203 million — would come from: bonds issued by an arena and entertainment district and paid off by state taxpayers; Milwaukee County; and the extension of existing local hotel room, rental car, and food and beverage taxes being collected by the Wisconsin Center District.

There would be at least an additional $174 million in total interest costs to the public on the arena deal.



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