The plan to spend $500 million in taxpayer money on the Milwaukee Brewers’ stadium may look different once it gets through the Wisconsin Senate.
A Senate panel held a hearing on the stadium funding proposal Wednesday and immediately hit supporters with questions.
“It would seem to be rushed,” Sen Julian Bradley, R-Franklin, said at Wednesday’s hearing. “It was intentionally half-baked. And it was just dropped. I don’t think any of us planned to take this up this session.”
Bradley said he wants the Brewers to stay in Milwaukee, but he wants to get “the right deal” to make it happen.
Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said before the hearing that there are not enough Republican votes to get the ballpark package through the Senate.
“I think, ultimately, people are looking for maybe a little larger contribution from the Brewers and a little less contribution from the state,” LeMahieu said. “I know that the avenue that some of the members have looked for is a ticket tax.”
State Rep. Rob Brooks, R-Saukville, who has led the negotiations in the State Assembly said a Brewer ticket tax is a non-starter, but he said there is support for a ticket tax for concerts and other things.
“Keep in mind, it’s got to be a very small threshold,” Brooks explained. “Because we’re not talking huge, expensive events in some cases. We could be talking about a George Strait concert, which I paid over $1,000 per ticket to go to, or we could be talking about $20 monster truck show.”
Brooks told senators he intentionally “half-baked” the proposal to allow the Senate to put its stamp on the ballpark funding deal.
Sen. Dan Feyen, R-Fond du Lac, said there is a need for some urgency because of a possible collapse at the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District and a desire to settle the ballpark issue.
“Businesses want certainty,” Feyen added. “And if you’re running a Major League Baseball team, and there’s going to be no deal done, [they] need to know for their future. And so does the state, the city, and the county.”
Democrats, many of whom have never supported using taxpayer dollars for the Brewers’ ballpark, continued their opposition.
“If this were the university system, a government agency, or any other entity, lawmakers would be asking a lot more questions about their financial management before forking over half a billion dollars,” Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said. “Just because it’s a team we like and they hired an army of lobbyists doesn’t mean we need to shut off our brains. The Senate needs to slow the bill down and get to the bottom of the scam the Brewers are trying to pull on taxpayers.”
Both Brooks and Feyen reminded senators the state owns American Family Field, and without a deal, taxpayers in the state will continue to be on the hook for the ballpark with or without the Brewers.