Dismissing the ballpark as a “local project,” Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says that any state aid for $290 million in American Family Field maintenance must be augmented by local spending from the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.
Gov. Tony Evers proposed drawing on the state’s $7 billion budget surplus to pay $290 million toward the anticipated $400 million+ price tag for American Family Field maintenance and repairs. Much of the funding would go to the unglamorous maintenance of items like HVAC upgrades and roof repairs–things that come 20 years after opening. Then-Miller Park opened in 2001, and while the Brewers have kept things fresh on the fan side with things like overhauled concessions, an indoor golf simulator and reconfigured seating options, keeping the boilers running in the state-owned facility is not the team’s sole responsibility under the lease.
The ballpark was originally financed by a five-county sales tax that covered both Democratic snd Republican areas of the Milwaukee area, but now Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says only the Democratic areas of the five-county area should be part of the funding plan, saying that if Milwaukee is benefiting from the ballpark, residents there should pay for it. Bashing Milwaukee is popular sport among Wisconsin Republicans, and at a time when Republicans are in disarray on a state level, Vos is clearly betting that bashing Milwaukee and the Brewers–an immensely popular team that outperforms the market–is still good politics for him. From The Center Square:
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Tuesday said there is growing support to see a buy-in from Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.
“I think it’s fair to say that most people around the state would expect that they have some kind of a participatory role,” Vos said at a news conference. “Has that been defined? No. Has a number been arrived at? No. But the idea of saying that the state is going to bear all of the responsibility for a local project is probably not realistic either.”
Vos has said in the past that he wants a stand-alone deal for the Brewers so that Milwaukee and Milwaukee County Democratic lawmakers cannot vote against the funding deal, then reap all of the benefits.
Vos’s problem is that he really can’t summon many reasonable objections to Evers’ proposal, from a political standpoint. It uses a portion of a large state surplus to invest in a state-owned asset, it keeps the immensely popular Brewers in small-market Milwaukee (though the team has not threatened to leave and, indeed, has been quietly looking at constructing a new entertainment district south of the ballpark), it pushes the Brewers to spend their own funds on revenue-generating ballpark improvements, and it raises no taxes.
RELATED STORIES: Murky waters ahead for American Family Field renovations; Initial funding proposal for American Family Field renovations shot down; State surplus would help fund American Family Field maintenance; Milwaukee County debates American Family Field development; Brewers warn of need for American Family Field improvements