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Tax extension a nonstarter for funding new Bucks arena

Milwaukee BucksExtending a local sales tax used to fund Miller Park to build a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks is already a nonstarter, as elected officials from both ends of the political spectrum come out in opposition to the proposal.

The 0.1% sales tax, collected in Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha, Racine and Milwaukee counties, was plenty successful in building Miller Park and is set to expire when bonds for that ballpark are paid off within the next decade. Many in Milwaukee say extending that sales tax for a new arena to replace Bradley Center makes good business sense; it would keep the team in town and keep events rolling into downtown Milwaukee. Timothy Sheehy, the head of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, laid out the rationale in a Wednesday speech.

His proposal was quickly shot down by Gov. Scott Walker and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, a Democrat, as being unworkable. Getting the tax originally passed was a bruising political battle involving Gov. Tommy Thompson; it passed the State Legislature by the slimmest of a margins and ended the political career of at least one state legislator, who switched his vote in favor of the proposal. Including surrounding counties in the tax district was controversial, and many in those counties haven’t really forgiven the state for the tax district despite it being successful in keeping the Brewers and generating economic activity in Milwaukee.

Extending that sales tax with the opposition of both Walker and Abele makes it a nonstarter. Which means any arena advocates need to start from scratch for a funding plan that both generates enough income for a new arena and can pass muster in a highly politicized environment.

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