In an odd twist, Wisconsin Assembly leaders are proposing more public money for American Family Field renovations than requested by Gov. Tony Evers, dropping the Milwaukee Brewers’ share of the project’s price tag to $100 million.
Under a plan unveiled by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, various public bodies would contribute $600 million over 30 years toward American Family Field renovations. The Brewers would pay $100 million in the same time frame, slightly less than the $110 million already pledged by the team for fan-friendly upgrades. The Brewers would then commit to a lease extension through 2050.
The public monies would come from a variety of sources: a diversion of player taxes (money that now goes to the state’s general fund) directly to the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, which owns and operates the ballpark, as well as $7.5 million annually from Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee. Part of the renovation plan would weatherize the ballpark to allow concerts and other events during the winter season.
This is much different from the original proposal from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to spend $290 million of the state’s $7 billion budget surplus on ballpark renovations mandated by the team’s lease. Much of this work is definitely not glamorous–HVAC upgrades, roof repairs, things that naturally occur after 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 is not the team’s sole responsibility under the lease.
Now, politically, it’s quite the reach for the Wisconsin Assembly leaders to propose spending $600 million over 30 years instead of paying $290 million out of an existing budget surplus today; that’s a pretty steep price just to stick it to Evers and Milwaukee government bodies. On the one hand, it’s a plus to extend the team’s lease to 2050. On the other hand, it’s a minus to take money from the general fund and pay an extra $310 million just because you want to stick it to a political opponent. (Democrats dominate Milwaukee and Milwaukee County politics; Assembly leadership is dominated by rural Rupublicans.) That’s why early reports indicate there may not be widespread support for the plan even among other Republicans:
The legislation also may have trouble obtaining approval from the state Senate, where it can only lose five of 22 Republican votes − assuming all 11 Senate Democrats oppose it, said Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee).
“There are a core of very fiscal conservative senators that I don’t see supporting a state bailout,” said Carpenter, who’s opposed to local funding for the stadium.
Wisconsin politics can be a tad twisted at time, but it’s hard to see how this is a better solution than simply spending a small chunk of the state’s budget surplus and avoid any financing costs over the next 30 years.
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