MILWAUKEE – Republican leaders in the state Assembly say it won't be easy to find the public money that the Milwaukee Bucks are seeking to help build a new arena.
The NBA team wants to replace the aging BMO Harris Bradley Center with a new downtown arena that could cost up to $500 million.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican from Rochester, said Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry made a mistake by greeting President Barack Obama at the airport last month, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/116mMe7 ) reported Friday. Lasry's appearance "did not make my job easier" as far as persuading the GOP-run Legislature to support a financial plan for the proposed area, Vos said.
"This is not going to be easy because the timeline is fairly quick, the ask is probably going to be fairly big, and the economic impact is unknown," Vos said.
Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke echoed those comments Friday, saying it will be hard to convince people who don't live in Milwaukee that taxpayers statewide should help pay for a new arena.
"I don't know how we sell it outstate," Steineke said.
The Bucks need to present a detailed plan that convinces lawmakers the new arena would boost the local economy, Vos said.
The Bucks have already come up with $300 million to fund the project, including $100 million from Lasry and fellow co-owner Wes Edens, $100 million from former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl and $100 million from a private investment. But Lasry, Edens and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce have said some public funding would still be required.
Although the public funding proposal has yet to be established, one possibility would be to capture income taxes paid by professional athletes and employees at the stadium. Gov. Scott Walker has said the idea is interesting and he would like to keep the Bucks around, but he has yet to publicly back a plan for the stadium.
"Gov. Walker has said that we first need to hear details of a plan from elected officials, Bucks officials and civic leaders in Milwaukee," Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick told the newspaper. "Then we will review and evaluate any role that might involve the state government."
A memo released Friday from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau says $150 million in general obligation bonds to help build the arena could be supported by the $12.7 million in Wisconsin personal income taxes paid every year by NBA players and other league employees. That assumes a 20-year repayment structure for the bonds.
The memo was written on Sept. 30 but not released publicly until Friday by Vos.
Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com