Local reaction mixed on Walker’s ‘Pay Their Way’ arena-funding plan

By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff

Jan. 28, 2015

WAUKESHA - In Waukesha County, Republicans and Democrats alike are looking for more answers regarding Gov. Scott Walker’s “Pay Their Way” plan to fund a new Milwaukee Bucks arena.

The plan - which earns its name because it would increase tax revenues collected from visiting NBA players and use those to fund bond payments - would provide bonding authority to pay back a $220 million grant for a new sports arena.

State Rep. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, said those revenues currently go to the state’s general fund and are used for general operations, which includes everything from education to roads.    

He said Walker’s proposal would divert those dollars away from taxpayers to the Bucks’ owners to help fund the new Milwaukee arena.

“In meeting with my constituents, they have expressed serious concerns about using public funds to finance a new arena,” Kapenga said in a release. “While I share their concerns, I am eager to review the full details of the governor’s proposal.”

Waukesha County Board Chair Paul Decker said the proposal “starts the discussion” but added it will be up to state legislators to decide if this is the end-all, be-all solution. On behalf of the county, he said, he is pleased the plan will not involve a sales tax, but he still has reservations about any public involvement in funding the arena.

“At least this is directly involved with the operation of that arena,” Decker said. “Some of the other things we heard floated around that would have come to taxpayers without any direct relation to the arena... It concerns me that taxpayers are still involved.”

Waukesha County Democratic Party Chair Scott Trindl said he was not familiar with all the specifics of Walker’s plan, but said generally he believes it sounds as though it could work.

“In principal, I am in favor of something like that because you want to keep the team here,” he said. “You want to revitalize downtown Milwaukee and that would let that happen.”

But Trindl did question how long the payoff period for the plan would be, as well as what the cost would be each year.

Walker’s formal budget proposal is set for Tuesday.

Email: mmasterson@conleynet.com