[UPDATED] Chris Abele supports extending .1% Miller Park sales tax to pay for new Bucks arena

UPDATE: I’ve updated the original entry to include the actual audio of County Executive Abele’s interview with John Mercure. Having had a chance to listen to the audio in its entirety, I think it’s fair to say County Executive Abele was pretty clear that he’d support a 1% sales tax increase to fund a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks only if there was a hard sunset to that sales tax and the funds collected could be accounted for.

What’s more, Abele articulated that he’d support an arena sales tax akin to the one implemented to build an arena in Oklahoma City, an arena that led to increased economic activity and development in that city.

At any rate, here’s the source audio.

Back in June I wrote about comments made by Bradley Center board chairman Marc Marotta, who stated public dollars would need to be allocated to help build a shiny new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, who currently play in the Bradley Center. Marotta suggested simply extending the .1% sales tax already in place to help pay for Miller Park, a sales tax that is set to expire once the Miller Park debt is retired.

Here’s what I wrote at the time:

While I support keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee, I don’t know that I could support the allocation of what’s likely to be hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to prop up the team’s efforts to build a new arena so the team can maximize its profits. What’s more, there are some who believe the economic impact new stadiums/arenas can have on their communities is overstated.

While a new arena may very well help the Milwaukee Bucks maximize their revenue streams, it seems pretty clear to me that a shiny new arena with the same old losing team won’t draw many fans. Fans pay to go see a winning team play, and if the Bucks can’t improve their on-court product, a half-empty new arena won’t do much good.

As first reported by Chris Liebenthal, County Executive Chris Abele has said he supports the idea of extending the .1% sales tax to finance a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.

On Monday, Abele was interviewed by John Mercure, afternoon propagandist at WTMJ-AM. Mercure asked Abele about the proposed 1% sales tax for a new arena.

Abele, an admitted owner of season tickets for the Bucks, gushed over the idea. Throwing all his anti-tax statements out the window, he couldn’t emphasize enough how much he liked this idea. He did not say whether he supported it because it would make his friends even richer or if it was that he wanted to have a new arena to sit in for his season tickets.

While I’m certainly a fan of the Milwaukee Bucks, I’m an even bigger fan of well-maintained parks and a robust public transit system, and it goes without saying that I’d support a sales tax dedicated to parks and transit over a sales tax dedicated to building a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.

12 comments to [UPDATED] Chris Abele supports extending .1% Miller Park sales tax to pay for new Bucks arena

  • John Casper

    Well said.

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    • I can’t take much credit; I’m just piggybacking on what Chris wrote.

      I just think it shows how skewed the priorities of some are that they support a sales tax for the Milwaukee Bucks to get a new arena over a sales tax for parks and transit.

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  • Senator Herb Kohl, to his credit, has stated that he is willing to provide funds to build a new basketball arena. And there are always studies (and several op ed pieces in MJS over the past several months) about how much revenue a professional sports franchise brings to the area. If that is true, those who reap the revenues should be willing to put up the money to build it. Sorta takes me back to the you didn’t build it, yes we did rhetoric of the presidential campaign. I am NOT in favor of public funding of a new arena.

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  • The .1% Miller Park stadium district tax (which covers five counties) is different than the 1% sales tax increase that passed in 2008 for parks, transit and EMS. They’re not in competition with eachother and it’s not an “either or”.

    I happened to be listening to WTMJ yesterday during the piece with Abele and I think Chris is being a bit over dramatic about the interview. Abele was fairly measured in his responses saying all options needed to be looked at. Some of this obsession with the County Exec being to blame for everything is getting a bit ridiculous. If half the anger directed at him was directed at the Dem legislators who failed to do ANYTHING with the 1% sales tax in 2009-2010 when they controlled both houses of the legislature, maybe we’d be somewhere by now.

    On another note, I don’t get the disdain towards Abele or anyone who’s proud of their hometown major league sports team or *gasp* has season tickets.

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    • John Casper

      Dan, imho, the low hanging fruit for the County Executive is to come out strongly in favor of the legalization of marijuana. I would never encourage anyone who was not seriously ill to use it, but it’s a text book example of job-killing-government-regulations. Washington State is predicting half a billion in revenue just from the excise tax. IIRC, their implementation will not let people smoke it in public.

      You wrote this: “The .1% Miller Park stadium district tax (which covers five counties) is different than the 1% sales tax increase that passed in 2008 for parks, transit and EMS. They’re not in competition with eachother and it’s not an “either or”.”

      Of course it’s an “either or.” If Miller Park were not in the equation transit, parks, and EMS would all get more. I’m in agreement with you that we need to improve the Bradley Center. It’s as important to Marquette basketball as it is to the Bucks and other sports. Taking that revenue, however, from transit, EMS and parks is a legitimate issue. It looks like we’re “socializing” the costs of a venue reserved almost exclusively for the wealthy onto those who rarely can afford to take advantage of it.

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      • John Casper

        Dan, appreciate you posting under your true identity. You’re a public figure. I know people who’ve worked for you and have spoken well of you. It takes guts and I commend you for it.

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      • Thanks John. The reason I don’t think the district tax is in competition with any 1% sales tax initiative for parks/transit/ems – which I should be clear is pretty much dead in the water to anyone looking at it objectively, including me – is that it doesn’t bring in nearly enough money to fund any of those services. The annual amount of revenue brought in by the 0.1% sales tax in 5 counties is approx. $25 million.

        And that’s for all five counties. If you just look at what MKE County brings in because the stadium tax, it’s about $8-10 million/year (my estimate).

        I’m not sure what the current MCTS budget is exactly, but it’s probably 4-5x that. The parks budget is about $45 million a year.

        So that’s why I don’t really see that as a viable alternative or competition, in addition to the fact that the Miller Park tax is done and in production and nothing is going to change that. I agree with you about the socialization of costs and the privatization of profits for the most part, but outside of profit, I think there is a fair amount of socialization of the income (not profits) that is derived from having a team like the Brewers or Bucks in Milwaukee.

        For people that think only the “rich” make out in this deal, I’d ask them to go talk to any of the independent business owners on Bluemound Ave or Old Third World St who wouldn’t be in business or employee people if it weren’t for the Bucks and Brewers. I’m no believer in trickle down economics on a macro level, but I don’t believe there is any doubt that having major league franchises in Milwaukee adds to the economic development of a town that is in desperate need of it.

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        • Stan

          The problem is that Abele has come out adamantly against a sales tax to pay for transit, or any government service, and now a couple days later he is pushing for a sales tax for a stadium. There seems to be a bit of a disconnect with Abele and people are just pointing it out.

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  • Jeremy Blomberg

    I can’t think of one reason why we should spend tax payer money on a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks; actually it seems quite ridiculous that legislators would even be discussing this at all. There are a couple other issues facing WI besides building our mediocre NBA team a new arena: homelessness, unemployment, climate change, drought, school funding, etc. Hopefully this will be a quick “no,” and then WI can continue to focus on important issues.

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  • Milwaukee Resident

    Here are the actual comments by the County Executive so that everyone can judge the actual comments for what they were: a wishy washy discussion of having to engage in a public discussion about whether or not to use this tax.

    http://www.620wtmj.com/podcasts/news/newstogo/181923991.html

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  • Dan

    Is there a proposed site for this new arena? Are they just going to build it on the current Bradley Center location?

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