The Wisconsin Senate made a rare display of bipartisanship on Wednesday by passing a $250 million financing deal for the new Milwaukee Bucks arena. The measure passed by a 21-10 margin, which included 16 votes from Republicans and 5 from Democrats.
Support for the proposal was tenuous until a pair of important modifications allowed it to gain bipartisan support.
First, Milwaukee County is no longer required to have the state take over its debt collection to help cover its share of the financing. Senator Chris Larson (D) called this method of financing “heartless” and refused to support the deal unless it was removed. Though it’s no longer a requirement, the county still has the option of turning over its debt collection duties to the state should they decide the state can do so more effectively.
Second, a $2 surcharge will be added to tickets for all events at the new arena. Last season the Bucks drew 611,226 fans, a figure likely to rise with the new arena and the Bucks’ newfound competence on the hardwood. In addition, the Marquette Golden Eagles – likely tenants of the new arena – drew 232,161 fans last season despite suffering one their worst campaign since the 1990s.
The passage of the deal in the Senate was met with both joy and scorn. Unsurprisingly, the website “Save Our Bucks” was excited by the development, tweeting out a “thank you” to the senators who voted for the deal. Conversely, Senator Tim Carpenter (D) “voted no on an arena deal that was not fair to my constituents.”
The measure still needs to pass the Wisconsin State Assembly and Milwaukee Common Council, though it currently seems likely that will happen.