Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Updated Brewers bill costs less for state, but still more room for improvement

Guess I was wrong about my theory that the Craig Counsell bombshell from yesterday was going to delay the Brewers stadium bill. In fact, it's speeding up.

So let's see JR's summary of the amendments to the Brewers bill, and see what it means.
*the state contribution would be $382.4 million, a reduction of $29.1 million from the previous $411.5 million;
In looking at the amendment text, this would be done by having the state stop making payments toward the stadium after 2044 instead the current bill’s end date of 2046. It also provides for the ticket tax to result in a dollar-for-dollar reduction on the state’s contribution.
the Brewers would add $10 million more in additional rent payments from the team, pushing that to $60 million. The team would also commit $50 million to new capital projects, though it would have control over the use of that money rather than the district board. That’s a total of $110 million in new money from the team;
This comes in the form of boosting the Brewers’ rent by $2 million for each of the last 5 years of the lease. Seems fair, given that you would think land and property values would be higher in 20 years, and it in theory would raise the “buyout” cost the Brewers would have to pay should they end their lease early.
*the commitment from Milwaukee County and the city would remain at $135 million over the life of the deal, which would run through 2050.

The overall price tag would be $692.9 million in new public and private money. That’s a reduction from the previous package of $697.9 million.
In theory, would that push some of the costs onto the team, since they’d have to make up the difference? Fine with me, but makes you wonder why the number was that high in the first place.

But I note that there is not any mention of Milwaukee representation on the Stadium District Board, which is ridiculous, given how the locals are chipping in tax dollars for the stadium repairs and also will have their neighborhoods affected by any future development in and around the ballpark.

Speaking of development, there is some odd language in the Senate amendment to go along with the study on new buildings on the stadium property that was added in at the Assembly level. Not only is the study required to be out in 2 years, but the Senate bill says there should be a “recommendation supporting or opposing a potential payment in lieu of general property taxes for any development of the baseball park facilities of the district other than a baseball stadium.”

I don’t know why we couldn’t just remove some of the property from the state’s and team’s control, and leave it open for development that way. That would at least get the property values into the City’s and County’s tax base, and can be used to help limit property taxes on all other property owners in the City and County. Just having the developers pay the Stadium District a set amount and not have to pay anyone else takes away some of the benefit for the local governments to have that development.

The bill also includes a new audit of expenses and investments done with the funds to keep up AmFam Field, which happen every two years. I'd go further on this, and have the Brewers' operations be audited as well. Maybe not every 2 years, maybe every 5, but I think we need to know if these subsidies are a key part of keeping the Brewerws viable and competitive. Or not.

In fact, I wish we had one of those operational audits right now, to see if the team's billionaire owner has an economic reason when he refuses to pay top dollar for talent, and that having taxpayers shell out for stadium upkeep would allow for more funds to be invested in improving the Brew Crew's chances on the field.

It's also interesting that after the Senate Government Operations Committee would (in theory) vote for the bill tomorrow morning, it's slated to get fast-tracked for action in another room in the Capitol later that day.

Sure seems like they're trying to move this thing through before more people are able to think more about the bill and more opposition might build to it.

I think this is slightly better than what got out of the Assembly. But as a constituent of Senator Kelda Roys (who is on the Government Operations Committee), I'd be fine with her voting NO. Because I want to see more information about the Brewers' bottom line, and I think we can further improve the bill so that the governments who pay into the ballpark's fixups get a say into what those fixups and possible developments are.

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