Senate committees advance Brewers stadium deal with additional changes

Senators adopted changes to the Milwaukee Brewers stadium deal on Wednesday that would lower the state’s contribution, increase the team’s contribution and adopt a ticket surcharge on events including concerts. 

Two committees voted to advance the bills with the amendments on Wednesday, setting the deal up to go to the floor of the Senate for a vote next week. The additional changes are meant to help the bills — AB 438 and AB 439 — get enough support to pass the state Senate, though it’s still unclear how many senators will vote in favor of the deal. 

The deal, which would fund maintenance and renovations at American Family Field and extend the Brewers’ lease through 2050, passed the Assembly in a bipartisan vote in October. That version of the deal included a $411 million contribution from the state, a $135 million contribution from the city and county of Milwaukee and a commitment of $100 million in addition to its rent payments from the Brewers. 

The amendments, introduced by bill author Sen. Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac), would reduce the state’s contributions, increase the Brewers’ contributions, add a $2 ticket surcharge to non-Brewers events and an $8 surcharge for stadium luxury boxes and suites at the stadium, and require an audit of the stadium district at the end of each fiscal biennium. 

The amendments would reduce the state’s total contribution by $29.15 million, according to Feyen’s office. 

Approximately $20 million of the reductions would come from eliminating two of the state’s three final annual payments, making the contribution amount $391 million. 

The ticket surcharge would be used to further reduce the state’s contribution. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) estimates that the surcharge will produce $14.1 million through 2050 — or about $550,000 in most years. 

As explained by a LFB staffer on Wednesday, the Wisconsin District of Administration would be responsible for certifying the amount brought in by the surcharge each year. That amount would then be used to reduce the total of the state’s final payment year. It is estimated by LFB that the surcharge would decrease the last $10 million payment by about $9.15 million. 

Funds brought in past the final payment — an estimated $4.4 million — would go into the District Segregated Fund, according to the Feyen’s office.

Under the amendments, the Brewers’ contribution rent payments would increase by $10 million. 

According to an LFB memo, the Brewers would pay $1,208,401 annually to the district beginning in 2024. The team’s rent would rise to $3,208,401 in 2046, and they would pay that amount through the end of the lease in 2050. 

Will there be enough support in the Senate? 

Opposition and support for the deal crosses party lines, and it’s unclear whether the deal will have enough votes to pass the Senate

The Senate Government Operations committee voted to concur in the deal in a 3-2 vote on Wednesday morning with Sen. Julian Bradley (R-Franklin) and Sen. Kelda Roys (D-Madison) voting against the bills. In the afternoon, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) voted 14-1 to concur in the bills with Roys voting against. 

Nine senators voted during their respective committees to advance the deal including Sens. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma), Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan), Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), Eric Wimberger (R-Green Bay), LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee), Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton) and Feyen. 

“I think we’ll get there,” Sen. Howard Marklein said in response to a question about where the Senate Republican caucus is on the bill. 

Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) told reporters that the caucus is having some “positive discussions” about the deal, but she didn’t know whether the deal currently has enough votes. 

“I’m not going to tell you anybody loves it, but they’re kind of where I’m at,” Felzkowski said.

For her part, Felzkowski said the deal is a “hard sell” in her district, but that it makes more sense to “keep the Brewers and come out hundreds of million dollars ahead at the end of the 2050 lease than to allow the Brewers to leave.”

Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) told reporters after the JFC executive session that she is the only Democrat that is currently a “Yes” vote on the deal.

Johnson said there are still many changes that she would like to see in the deal, including board representation for Milwaukee. 

“The unfortunate thing is that because Republicans have control I’m not sure that we’ll see them,” Johnson said. “Anyone who has to contribute directly should at least get a seat and that’s not happening.” 

Johnson said she voted for the deal in committee because she didn’t feel like “we could afford to lose them.” 

Bradley, a Republican, and Roys, a Democrat, said during the Senate Government Operations executive session that the amendments moved the deal in the right direction, but they aren’t enough to get their support. 

“It still falls short of where I think we need to be, but the amendment is a step in the right direction,” Bradley said, adding that negotiations will continue. 

Roys, agreeing with Bradley, said the deal was not where it needed to be when it came to the size of the public’s contribution and the split between public and private. 

“This is a deal that has ballooned, almost doubled in size since the governor’s initial proposal,” Roys said during the Government Operations meeting.

Negotiations over funding the stadium started in February when Gov. Tony Evers proposed tapping into the state’s budget surplus to provide $290 million to the stadium and in exchange the Brewers would have extended their lease through 2043. 

“Now we’re looking at it ongoing 27 years, millions of millions of dollars, not only from state taxpayers, but from Milwaukee and Milwaukee County taxpayers,” Roys said. “Meanwhile, the Brewers are putting up about 21% of the total cost.” 

Apart from the financials of the plan, Roys said she also remained concerned about the makeup of the stadium district board, which doesn’t include local representation. Under the current plan, the board includes four members appointed by the governor subject to Senate confirmation, two members appointed by the Senate majority leader, two members appointed by the Assembly speaker and one member to represent the team.

If the bills pass the Senate with the amendments, they will go back to the Assembly. Assembly representatives will need to approve the same version approved by the Senate before the bills could go to Evers. 

Vos told reporters on Tuesday that he hadn’t discussed the amendments with the Senate yet, but that the Assembly had discussed a small ticket fee on non-Brewers events and that if it was targeted towards reducing the state’s share then it was a “win” for everyone.

“Hopefully, this is what gets it over the finish line,” Vos said. “If it can get through the Senate, I’m sure we’ll support it in the Assembly.”



originally published at https%3A%2F%2Fwisconsinexaminer.com%2F2023%2F11%2F09%2Fsenate-committees-advance-brewers-stadium-deal-with-additional-changes%2F by Baylor Spears

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