There may not be any state taxpayer bucks for the Milwaukee Bucks. The new owners of the NBA franchise may be asking for as much as $200 million in state support, as part of the funding package to replace the BMO Harris Bradley Center in downtown Milwaukee. But that request could amount to a long shot in the face of opposition from Republicans who control both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature.
Bucks co-owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens haven’t made any proposal yet – but Lasry’s decision to greet President Barack Obama during a recent visit to Milwaukee hasn’t earned him any points with Republican leadership, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who said that “didn’t make my job any easier.”
On Friday, Vos released a statement, regarding a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo, which showed that the Bucks athletes and other employees paid state income taxes of approximately $10.7 million in the 2012 tax year.
“One fact that hasn’t changed is that any option that includes taxpayer resources will be a tough sell in the conservative Assembly Republican caucus. I continue to hear from members and my own constituents who are hard-pressed to giving away precious taxpayer dollars with so many demands on our resources. Moving forward we will examine all the options and ultimately do what’s best for Wisconsin and its taxpayers.”
A newly elected Republican state Senator also weighed in on the issue Friday. Senator-Elect Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) said in the statement that he believes state taxpayers have very little interest in paying for the costs of a new arena for the team.
“Over the last few months, the people of the 11th State Senate District told me what they hoped to see from the Legislature in the 2015-16 session. Their list didn’t include state dollars going to a new Bucks’ arena. The Bucks are apparently a profitable venture since they sold for $550 million. There are legitimate economic reasons to believe that a privately financed arena would also be a profitable venture.”
Lasry, Edens and former Bucks owner Herb Kohl has pledged money of their own, totalling some $300 million, towards a replacement for the current arena, which opened in 1988 and is viewed as inadequate by NBA standards.