lawmakers split as Assembly passes arena deal
Differing perspectives on public financing at heart of rift
By Arthur Thomas -
Freeman Staff and Scott Bauer - The Associated Press
Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin, left, speaks
with Tom Millonzi, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters
Local 200, during an event hosted by MillerCoors on
Tuesday, July 14th to show support for creating a new Milwaukee
WAUKESHA — The state
representatives from Waukesha County split in their votes on the
Bucks arena deal, with seven lawmakers supporting the bill,
while three were opposed.
The bill passed the state Assembly 52-34 and now heads to Gov.
Scott Walker for his signature. It spends $250 million in public
funds on a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, a deal both
Republicans and Democrats lauded as good for the state and city.
No one spoke against the measure as Bucks coach Jason Kidd and
team president Peter Feigin watched from the gallery. They made
the rounds before and after the roughly hour-long debate, posing
for pictures with both lawmakers and members of the public.
“The Bucks will not only remain home in Wisconsin, but we’ll
soon begin a transformative economic development project that
will help revitalize our community and region,” Feigin said in a
statement issued by the team.
Walker called it a “good deal all the way
around” while speaking with reporters at Pat’s King of Steaks,
one of two Philadelphia cheesesteak institutions he visited
“For us, it’s what we’d hoped for,” Walker
said. “A good, bipartisan vote. It had strong votes in both the
Assembly and the Senate. A lot of hats off.”
The deal received bipartisan support, with
legislators lauding the move’s positive impact on the state by
keeping the Bucks and the income taxes paid by NBA players and
staff in the state. While taxpayers are on the hook for $250
million initially, that commitment will grow to $400 million
with interest over 20 years. Current and former Bucks owners are
contributing another $250 million.
There is also a $2 ticket surcharge.
Those supporting the bill included
Republicans Scott Allen, of Waukesha, Janel Brandtjen, of
Menomonee Falls, Rob Hutton, of Brookfield, Joel Kleefisch, of
Oconomowoc, Dale Kooyenga, of Brookfield, Mike Kuglitsch, of New
Berlin, and Joe Sanfelippo, of New Berlin.
Republicans Dave Craig, of the Town of
Vernon, Cody Horlacher, of Mukwonago, and Chris Kapenga, of the
Town of Delafield, voted against the plan.
we do nothing, we’re subsidizing them to leave’
Pewaukee state Rep. Adam Neylon did note
vote. He is currently in Turkey on a cultural exchange trip that
has been scheduled for months. Neylon was invited because he is
a lawmaker and members of both parties have gone on the trip
over the years. Rep. Daniel Riemer, D-Milwaukee, is also on the
trip. Neylon said Assembly leadership knew he’d be out of the
country when the vote was scheduled.
Neylon had previously voiced his opposition
to the plan’s usage of public financing for the arena, and said
he would have been a “no” vote.
Public support for a private business was
among the issues those who did vote on the proposal differed on.
Supporters said the deal would bring the state $3 million a
“I’m talking to you as a CPA,” Kooyenga said
during debate on the bill. “We’ve reached a point where if we do
nothing, we’re subsidizing them to leave.”
But after the vote, Craig said taxpayer
funding for the arena “sends a bad message” to small businesses.
“I fear the negative impacts of cronyism
will outweigh the perceived benefits of the taxpayer subsidy of
this project,” Craig said. “Further, nothing stops the cartel
that is the NBA from making a similar demand from taxpayers in
the future — and undoubtedly the legislature will answer with
taxpayer funds then too.”
Waukesha County Democratic Party Chair Scott
Trindl said while he wished the deal could have been completed
with less taxpayer dollars attached, it was probably the “the
best one that could have been passed.”
“The economic impact of keeping a
professional sports franchise in southeast Wisconsin, along with
the added benefit of all of the additional private development
that will also occur in the area because of the new arena, is
good for the state,” he said in an email to The Freeman. “It
will become an entertainment destination region wide.”
Sanfelippo said he was opposed to the
measure when it was first proposed, but changed his mind after
looking at the financial aspects. He added that 63 percent of
the constituents contacting his office were in favor of the
bill, compared to 37 percent opposed.
Allen said public-private partnerships that
benefit the general welfare are worthy of consideration and the
agreement had improved over the last few months.
“It might be easy to stand on some principle
to oppose the funding plan. To do so, however, would be to
ignore the fiscal benefits and the potential economic benefits,”
Allen said, adding that those who stand to benefit the most are
contributing the most.
Both Allen and Kooyenga encouraged the Bucks
to utilize their resources, including players, to give back to
the community and help the city of Milwaukee improve.
“The people of Wisconsin expect the Bucks to
build a successful team with people of great character who will
give back to the community,” Allen said. “My message to the
Milwaukee Bucks: the ball is in your court.”
How they voted
Waukesha County representatives split on
supporting a financing deal for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena in
■ Scott Allen (Waukesha)
■ Janel Brandtjen (Menomonee Falls)
■ Rob Hutton (Brookfield)
■ Joel Kleefisch (Oconomowoc)
■ Dale Kooyenga (Brookfield)
■ Mike Kuglitsch (New Berlin)
■ Joe Sanfelippo (New Berlin)
■ Dave Craig (Town of Vernon)
■ Cody Horlacher (Mukwonago)
■ Chris Kapenga (Town of Delafield)
■ Adam Neylon (Pewaukee)