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The Menominee Tribe said it would front a $220 million bond Governor Scott Walker proposed making to help build a new Milwaukee Bucks arena in Milwaukee, if Walker allows the Menominee Hard Rock Kenosha Casino & Hotel to go through.

But the state rejected the deal again, according to a story on JSonline.com.

Mike Huebsch, Walker’s administration secretary, told the reporter that Walker won’t “reverse his decision to kill the Menominee casino.”

The Menominee also said it would cover any potential losses from other gaming agreements up to $275 million.

The Menominee pointed out that the dollars the state would have used to pay for the bond could “free State taxpayer money” and “allow it to be redirected to support the University of Wisconsin, public schools, senior care, roads and other critical needs.”

Walker, who is in Great Britain on a trip to attract foreign companies to the state, was not available for comment.

However, Walker’s press secretary Laurel Patrick, said in an email that his plan to pay for the arena would not have used funds from the general fund, but would have been a loan that would have been paid back through income taxes from the Bucks, visiting teams, salary increase and new TV contracts.

“Once the bonds are paid off, tax growth would return to the state,” Patrick wrote in statement. “Governor Doyle’s compacts with the tribes open up the State of Wisconsin to significant litigation risks.  Due to those compacts, the long-term economic hit to the state budget would be a potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Walker last month announced he was rejecting the proposed $800 million casino project because compacts signed years ago with the Potawatomi put state taxpayers at risk. Walker said that under the gaming compacts taxpayers could stand to lose $100 million. Still, officials with the Menominee Tribe said their casino project is worth $1 billion over the next 25 years to the state if the governor approves the deal.

Democrats and Republicans from across the state bluntly told Walker last month that they and the residents they serve are disappointed in him. After the Menominee released the details of this offer, here’s what they had to say:

Rep. Tom Weatherston (R-Caledonia): “I am extremely pleased and supportive of the latest proposal brought forth by the Menominee Tribe and the Hard Rock Casino. It’s beneficial to the Milwaukee Bucks, Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties, and you could make a case to say that even the Potawatomi Tribe would benefit under their offer. Additionally, it could help alleviate state budget pressures — overall it looks very appealing.”

Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Kenosha): “This is a real win-win situation for the entire state. The Kenosha area gets our casino and the thousands of jobs that come with it, Milwaukee gets a new arena and to keep the Bucks, and the taxpayers are off the hook for the $220 million in borrowing. I’m confident the Bureau of Indian Affairs would approve the agreement: now it’s up to Governor Walker and his administration to make the right call.”

Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester): “I commend the Menominee Tribe for not giving up on creating thousands of jobs in Racine and Kenosha counties. I continue to support the tribe’s efforts to get approval for the Kenosha casino. This proposal is an exciting opportunity and could be a win-win for everyone involved. However, even if you believe this proposal is a game changer, we must come to terms with the real possibility that the governor may never reverse his decision.”

Here’s a link to the rest of our coverage on the Kenosha Casino.


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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.

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