“By a 10-1 margin, voters think owner Mark Attanasio is better placed to pay for the stadium improvements than Wisconsin taxpayers.”
A new Brewers stadium poll indicates that Wisconsin voters of all political parties overwhelmingly oppose taxpayer money being used to improve the Milwaukee Brewers stadium, with 55% of voters surveyed opposing “tax money being used to pay for improvements to the Brewers baseball stadium, sometimes called a stadium subsidy.”
More than half of all Democrats, Republicans, and Independents said they oppose the spending. Republicans were somewhat more against it (59% to 57% for independents and 50% for Democrats), according to the PPP poll released on Oct. 16, 2023.
In an ominous sign for legislators, especially Republican legislators, 51% of those polled said they would be less likely “to support a politician who supports tax money being used to subsidize improvements to the Brewers baseball stadium.”
Republicans and Donald Trump voters (the poll asked each group, which obviously overlaps) were most likely to oppose spending taxpayer money on the stadium renovations, but 50% of Democrat voters also opposed it.
Republicans and Trump voters were also more likely to say they were less likely to vote for a politician who approved the taxpayer spending on the stadium, with 55% of Trump voters and 54% of Republican voters saying it made them less likely to vote for such a person. However, 51% of Independents and 47% of Democrats also fell into that category.
An even higher percentage, 64%, oppose the spending if it’s shifted from the new sales tax increase in the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.
A whopping 70% of those polled said they wanted the taxpayer money spent on “other government priorities such as public safety, healthcare, and roads” instead. Both Trump/Republican and Biden/Democrat voters want the taxpayer money spent on other priorities, although in that case, Biden voters are a bit stronger in the sentiment.
People said they were more likely to oppose taxpayer money being used to renovate the stadium when they were told the original 1995 Brewers stadium “subsidy” resulted “in $609 million in sales taxes being used to pay for the stadium over 24 years.”
Both men and women oppose the stadium spending, although men oppose it slightly more.
Public Policy Polling (PPP) surveyed 1,347 Wisconsin voters about the stadium subsidy plan. The poll results were announced in a press release by Dan Adams for Milwaukee Works, Inc. PPP is a Democratic-affiliated polling firm. That’s interesting in that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers also proposed a massive taxpayer-funded subsidy for the Brewers with zero buy-in from the Brewers owner, who is worth $700 million. Evers’ plan includes $290 million cash upfront from the state surplus, interest payments, and $70 million from the stadium board.
As an aside, the PPP poll also asked voters about President Joe Biden’s job performance and found that 52% disapprove, driven by the fact he’s losing independents by a wide margin. The poll surveyed an equal percentage of Biden and Donald Trump voters, and an equal percentage of Democrats, Republicans and almost an equal percentage of independents.
The Brewers stadium poll also contains this question about Brewers’ owner Mark Attanasio: “Current estimates state that the Brewers are worth nearly seven times what owner Mark Attanasio paid for the team, bringing the team’s current value to $1.6 billion, despite never reaching the World Series during his ownership. Mark Attanasio recently paid $50 million to buy an English Soccer team. Having heard this, who do you think is in a better position to pay for stadium improvements: Mark Attanasio or Wisconsin taxpayers?”
Not surprisingly, 77% said Attanasio was better positioned to pay for the stadium improvements than taxpayers.
Earlier this month, Visit Milwaukee, the city’s Chamber of Commerce and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce released a poll that showed 66% of likely Wisconsin voters agree that “Gov. Evers and Republicans in the Legislature must work together to come up with a solution to the funding shortfall at American Family Field.”
Voters were told in that poll that there “is a proposal in the state legislature to cover this shortfall with a combination of funding from the state of Wisconsin, the regional Stadium District, and the Brewers organization jointly paying for these improvements.” It says 58% of voters supported the legislative proposal. However, that phrasing leaves out the fact the legislative plan also includes local taxpayer dollars from the City and County of Milwaukee.
Legislative Republicans have proposed their own plan, which was initially more than $700 million, to maintain and renovate the Milwaukee Brewers’ stadium. Unlike Evers’ plan, it also contains a $100 million contribution from the Brewers.
The Republican plan does include the concept of a “jock tax” – using millionaire players’ income taxes to help fund the renovations; in other words, some of the taxpayer contribution would come from the players’ taxes. The new Democratic-affiliated poll did not ask voters about the jock tax concept, but rather asked about taxes in general and sales taxes in specificity.
The Republican plan also includes $202 million from City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County taxpayers. Republicans have since indicated a willingness to reduce the Milwaukee contribution.
We previously argued that both Evers’ and the Republican plans failed to hit the mark and proposed a much smaller Brewer package. Supporters of the public funding have argued that the Brewers could leave the state if a plan isn’t approved. They have contended the players’ income taxes won’t be collected in the first place if the team leaves the state, and the state will be left holding an expensive empty stadium that currently produces sales tax revenues for the state and locals.
However, the new Brewers stadium poll shows the proposals for taxpayer contribution face bad timing with the electorate and are fraught with peril for legislators, at a time when Wisconsin families are struggling to pay their grocery and gas bills. It also shows that a plan like Evers’ with no Brewers contribution at all would be wildly unpopular with the public and that the high Republican dollar amount and massive tax contributions from Milwaukee are also very unpopular, and, interestingly, are even more so with Republicans.
Public funding for the stadium has always been met with public dissent. Many remember the fate of George Petak, the Racine legislator who was the deciding vote on the old stadium plan’s sales tax, which was spread over a multi-county area. He was recalled out of office as a result.