A five-county sales tax used to back construction bonds for Miller Park will officially sunset on March 31, signaling the end of a tax used to help build the Milwaukee Brewers home.
Miller Park came together under a funding model that included a 0.1 percent sales tax that went into effect in 1996, covering the counties of Milwaukee, Ouzaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha. The tax–which backed $290 million in construction bonds, plus interest–has proven controversial at times, as at various points receipts were below projected levels. However, favorable economic conditions helped the numbers trend upward in recent years, helping to bring the tax closer to retirement.
Its sunset date is now certain, as the board of the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District voted unanimously on Tuesday to end the tax on March 31. This decision was seen as a formality, as the board moved forward last year with plans to sunset the tax this March, while Wisconsin governor Tony Evers signed a bill last fall that called for the tax to be retired by August 31, 2020. More from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Also, the state Legislature passed and Gov. Tony Evers signed a law in late 2019 that required the tax to disappear by Aug. 31 whether or not the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District had paid off its bonds and satisfied reserve requirements.
Those obligations have been met and the state Department of Revenue has told retailers that the tax is no longer to be collected after March 31.
“The fact of the matter is when a tax like this is implemented, no one ever thinks it’s going to stop,” said Don Smiley, chairman of the stadium district board. “It stopped here today. It’s an example of promise made, promise kept.
“We ended up with a great ballpark and a great facility,” Smiley said.
It was once thought that the sales tax could sunset sooner, with original projections calling for a 2014 retirement. However, that was based on some pretty optimistic estimates of 5.5 percent growth annually — which meant they were expecting the Milwaukee area to far outpace the national economy in terms of growth.