(The Center Square) – Republicans at the Wisconsin Capitol say the plan to spend over $500 million in public money on the Brewers ballpark is a good deal for taxpayers.
The State Assembly was expected to vote on the plan late Tuesday. Republicans hold a 64-35 majority in the Assembly.
Ahead of the vote, State Rep Rob Brooks, R-Saukville, said he is proud of the proposal.
“We have reached an agreement here in the assembly on the Brewers package,” Brooks told reporters. “We’ve also reached that agreement with the governor, the [Milwaukee] county exec and [Milwaukee’s] mayor. So, we are in a really good position to move the process along and send it to the Senate after today.”
The latest version would use a little more than $400 million in state money, another $135 million from Milwaukee and Milwaukee County and $100 million from the Brewers to pay for ongoing work and renovations at American Family Field.
Brooks said there will be some changes next week when the plan reaches the Wisconsin Senate, most notably a tax on non-brewer events.
Brooks, however, said lawmakers rejected the idea of a Brewer ticket tax to help pay for the stadium.
“We have discussed every possible option. We have not been able to get to a ticket tax because it’s not in the best interest of the fans or the people of the state of Wisconsin. We want to keep the Brewers affordable. The Brewers organization understands they want to keep it affordable. And that’s why they stepped up in the manner they did because they are opposed to a ticket tax that would drive up the cost of the fans,” Brooks added.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos also defended the taxpayer support for the Brewers ballpark.
“I know there are some critics who are out there saying that we should let the Brewers leave and it’s not worth it for our economy, they’re just flat out wrong. The Brewers are great for Wisconsin. This is a good deal for the taxpayers,” Vos said.
Vos again said losing professional baseball in Wisconsin would be a net negative.
“Ultimately, once people understand everything is part of the package I think the polling shows there’s overwhelming support,” Vos explained. “It’s only if you choose to cherry pick the results and talk about certain things that sometimes people are more skeptical.”
A new Public Policy Polling poll says 55% of Wisconsin taxpayers would rather see the Brewers’ owner pay for work at the ballpark on his own.
American Family Field, however, is owned by the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, which is a government entity, and Brooks and Vos have said in the past that taxpayers would be on the hook for the stadium with or without the Brewers.
In return for the public money, the Brewers are agreeing to stay in Milwaukee until 2050.
The Wisconsin Senate is expected to take up the measure next week, though there are some Republicans in the Senate who are expected to vote no.