So far, no one has spoken in opposition to the public financing deal for the Bucks arena.
One after another, Dems and Republicans are standing in support, stressing it would cost the state much more if the team leaves and it would be a black eye for Milwaukee.
Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, spoke to those in the Assembly who might oppose the deal because they don't believe the public should subsidize a professional sports arena. He said as a CPA, the numbers just make sense.
"We've reached a point where if we do nothing," Kooyenga said, "we subsidize them to leave."
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has taken the floor to start debate on the Bucks financing deal, saying the current package is better than the original proposal.
He said the deal amounts to state taxpayers contributing $3.5 million annually, while the state takes in $6.5 million in revenue. On top of that, local governments will cover the majority of the cost, the Rochester Republican said.
"It is cheaper for us to pass this bill," Vos said, "than to defeat it and let the team leave."
Vos also recognized Dems for "putting aside politics" and doing what is right for the state.
"I cannot thank enough the minority leader and those from the other side," Vos said.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Minority Leader Peter Barca said before the floor session today they expect the public financing package for the Bucks arena to pass without amendments.
Vos, R-Rochester, said during a bipartisan news conference prior to the floor session that the proposal has changed for the benefit of taxpayers through negotiations. Still, he said he also supported the original deal proposed by Gov. Scott Walker in early June.
"Today is the day the state Assembly is going to pass the Milwaukee County arena," Vos said.
Barca, D-Kenosha, said the amended version of the financing package, which the Senate passed on a 21-10 bipartisan vote July 15, resolves concerns Dems had about the deal. He said taxpayers are protected and the deal is far better for the state than if the Bucks left.
The deal, Barca said, will have a transformative effect on the city of Milwaukee.
"I think there's going to be tremendous development around the area," Barca said.
After the Senate passed an amended Bucks arena bill, state Assembly leaders say they’re “optimistic that a vote on the measure will take place in the next few weeks.”
The statement came from: Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester; Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna; Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette; Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, and Assistant Minority Leader Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point.
“We will take a close look at the new version of the bill that the Senate just approved to determine if any changes are needed," the statement said. "We would like to give our members and the public time to review the updated legislation and have a bipartisan discussion."
If the Assembly passes the bill without any changes, it would go to Gov. Scott Walker for signing. If there are changes, the Senate would have to agree to them.
Sen. Lena Taylor has kicked off debate over the Bucks arena proposal by saying "this deal means big bucks."
The new arena, the Milwaukee Dem said, means $339 million in total revenue the state otherwise would have lost. And the change to the deal, she said, make the deal better.
Through negotiations, the amended bill now calls for a board of directors that includes members of the minority party, Taylor said. It also rightfully removes the requirement the state take over Milwaukee County's debt collection to raise $4 million in annual contributions to pay for the project, she said.
"I know that some of you might say it's not enough," Taylor said. "But guess what? It's better than where we were."
Ticket surcharges and removal of the county debt collection element of the Bucks deal have stirred mixed feelings in Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and County Exec Chris Abele.
Both said during the floor session recess they appreciate the Senate's taking up the package. But Barrett said if there is going to be a ticket surcharge added to the Bucks deal, it all should go to the Wisconsin Center District, which is bonding for the project, rather than 75 percent to the district and 25 percent to the state.
He said the district is the weakest fiscal link in the package.
"My concern is it goes to the place where it's most needed," Barrett said.
Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, has said his vote for the deal depends on the removal of Milwaukee County's financing element, in which the state would take over debt collection to produce the county's $4 million per year contribution. Larson has said he would not vote for the package with that financing because it forces the people who can least afford it to pay for the arena.
Larson said today he now supports the deal.
Abele, speaking during the floor recess, said if the county is forced to contribute money to the Bucks arena package, it would amount to a $4 million per year hole in the county budget's shared revenue for 20 years.
He said he does not understand the idea of protecting those who do not pay their taxes and fees at the expense of those who do.
"There's days that are frustrating," he said. "This is one of them."
Sen. Lena Taylor told WisPolitics during a break from the Dem caucus the Senate would head to the floor today to take up the Bucks arena deal.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's office, however, would not confirm there would be a floor session today. Fitzgerald spokeswoman Myranda Tanck said there is still hope for a floor vote today, but no guarantees.