**Editor’s Note: This article is the opinion of the author.
Gov. Scott Walker’s budget for the 2015-2017 biennial includes a proposal for $220 million in state bonds to help pay for a new arena to keep the Milwaukee Bucks in the state, but repayment would come in the first year from $2.8 million in state funds. Potential increases in income taxes from Bucks’ players and visiting NBA teams would pay for the rest, and, combined with money from current and past owners, should be enough to fund the new facility.
I know there are lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who have problems with this proposal, and I hope their voices multiply and get louder so this provision is removed from the final version of the budget. Here’s why I feel this way:
Walker is essentially asking state taxpayers to foot part of the bill and then have workers pay for the building where they work instead of demanding the business owners pony up and pay for their own building.
Yes, I know NBA players make insane amounts of money playing a game, but strip away the trappings of being a professional athlete, and bring the discussion down to the level where the rest of us live.
Could you imagine getting a raise that puts you into a higher tax bracket and then the increase in income taxes goes directly to pay for the loan your boss(es) took out to buy the building where you go to work? This isn’t theoretical; Walker intends to collect the players’ income taxes and apply them to the debt payment for the bonds.
Not only is the governor asking state taxpayers and Bucks players to pay for the new arena, but he’s making these proposals on the heels of rejecting the Kenosha casino, a deal that would have included the money to pay the bill Walker wants the rest of us to foot, a deal that also came with a lot of jobs and some serious juice for the state economy.
Why are the Bucks’ owners not being forced to get financing and figure out how to qualify for economic development incentives for their new facility like so many other employers do when they need to expand or put up a new building?
Elected officials who represent Racine County are rightfully rejecting any kind of tax on county residents to pay for the new Bucks arena. Cory Mason, Robin Vos, Tom Weatherston, Peter Barca, Bob Wirch and Van Wanggaard need to do whatever they can to remove Walker’s bond proposal for a new arena from the state budget.