Sunday, October 29, 2023

Brewers action not over yet for 2023. Stadium bill has lots of work left

As the MLB season wraps up this week, I wanted to drop in an update on the bill to pay for the ballpark for the state's own MLB team. The bill to help the Milwaukee Brewers pay for hundreds of millions of dollars in upkeep and maintenance for AmFam Field got through the State Assembly earlier this month, and it appeared that this thing may be able to get done sooner than later.

But it looks to be a harder sell in the State Senate, which hosted a public hearing on the Brewers bill last week. The Majority Leader of that house indicated that he and his fellow Republicans can't pass the Assembly's version of the bill, and will have to change it.

We got an answer about how many Dems are in support of the bill after this comment from my State Senator this weekend.

Given that less than 1/3 of the Democrats in the Assembly voted against the Brewers bill, it surprises me that it would be 0 for 11 in the Senate. But perhaps this is simple negotiations, and the Dems recognize that if they are needed to get this bill through, then they'd better get more of what they want out of that bill.

As alluded to by Channel 58's Fannon, one item that seems certain to be added to the final Brewers deal is ticket tax on concerts and other one-off events at the ballpark. Bill sponsor Rep. Rob Brooks said such a ticket tax could be used to cut the amount of general taxes that would be used toward the ballpark.
Brooks said he thought that a lower state contribution could be achieved by implementing a ticket tax on non-Brewer events.

Brooks said that a ticket tax on Brewers events are a “nonstarter” for the team, but that a ticket tax on other events at the stadium is a possibility. He said the team wants to keep ticket costs low for Brewers fans.

“Do I think we’re going to get a ticket tax for Brewers games?” Brooks said. “No. Because the Brewers have said we would rather pony up with some additional money and they have, to the tune of $100 million.”
However, it does look like others want to see the Brewers games be the direct contributor, much like how Bucks games have a ticket tax to help pay for FiServ Forum.

I'm with Sen Roys in that I would prefer the ticket tax to be levied on each of the Brewers' 2 million+ admissions a year, as a way to make sure users from out-of-town pay towards the stadium upkeep. But I understand where the Brewers are coming from on that (they don't want to be seen as raising ticket prices), and that they'd rather pay the money out of their own pockets. As long as it takes some of the burden off of Milwaukee and statewide taxpayers, I'm relatively indifferent as to how that gets done.

Another complaint brought up by Democrats during the stadium bill debate is the fact that there are no representatives of either the City of Milwaukee or Milwaukee County on the Stadium Board, even though those local governments are slated to send a total of $135 million. Brewers president of Business Operations Rick Schlesinger was asked about that at the hearing, and said he was sensitive to that complaint (he made a historical reference to "no taxation without representation"), and it does look like this will at least be a topic of discussion.
Brooks said that the board composition has gone through several iterations, and they are prepared to amend the bill.

“If it’s adding a city and county representative or something, I think we can certainly look at that,” Brooks said. “It was anticipated all along that that’s what it would look like, but I wasn’t about to put it in the bill until I had a commitment on the money.”“If it’s adding a city and county representative or something, I think we can certainly look at that,” Brooks said. “It was anticipated all along that that’s what it would look like, but I wasn’t about to put it in the bill until I had a commitment on the money.”
I get that, although I don't get why it wouldn't be the other way around, where the locals get to help decide what to do about the money, and then they agree to chip in funds toward the upkeep.

I don't see an Executive Session scheduled in the Senate committee discussing the Brewers bill, which is the place where the bill could be amended and then voted on. That could change quickly, depending on how things work out behind the scenes, but I also think there are enough moving parts that it could take a while to figure all of this out.

And I do think events involving the on-field product will have an effect, particularly with this story that came out last week.

If the Brewers aren't going to use the benefit of these public funds to pay to keep the Wisconsin-raised manager that has overseen the best run of success this franchise has had, some might ask "What's the point of paying in for this if the team isn't going to use those funds to adequately compete in the Big Leagues?" Conversely, will the debate at the Capitol encourage Mark Attanasio and the rest of the ownership group to shell out to keep Counsell to keep that criticism from happening? (I hope so, but I am very skeptical of that).

And I wonder if this gets done at all in this session, given the uncertainites with redistricting and the 2024 elections. Would everyone roll the dice for a new Legislature and a better deal? The Brewers wouldn't be leaving for at least a couple of years (and their current lease runs for another 7). Lots to look out for in the coming weeks and months.

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