The Track of a Storm: Saved Our Bucks

Editor’s Note: The State Assembly will vote on Tuesday, July 28 on the Bucks arena bill.

Other than their undying allegiance to cheese and beer, Wisconsin legislators from opposing political parties find it impossible to discover common ground.

So it’s been surprising to see Republican and Democratic cheese-heads come together to collectively brew a bipartisan bill that relied on the support of both parties. 15 of 18 Republicans, and six of 13 Democrats in Wisconsin’s state senate voted for the newest Bucks arena proposal this past Wednesday.

Now, the only thing that stands between Milwaukee and our beloved Bucks is a vote in the State Assembly. Leaders from the assembly offered this statement:

“We would like to give our members and the public time to review the updated legislation and have a bipartisan discussion.”

~Wisconsin State Assembly leaders

Bipartisan? You mean that concept where members from both political parties actually work together, as partners, to create legislation? Does that still exist?

Just one week ago, it might have seemed impossible for a bipartisan bill to be passed, especially when we acknowledge Wisconsin as one of the most polarizing states in the country. We’re home to a governor and presidential frontrunner whose political beliefs align with the tea party, yet we’ve also hosted the largest presidential rally to date for a candidate who describes himself as a socialist. On both sides, that’s as uni-partisan as it gets.

Yet in the last week, bipartisan has become the buzzword of the Bucks arena deal negotiations.

“With the extreme divisiveness and polarization we’ve seen in Wisconsin over the past few years, bipartisan cooperation has become practically non-existent. So it’s incredibly encouraging that Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are working together…”

~Democratic Party of Wisconsin

A spokeswoman for Walker said the governor “appreciates the hard work done by bipartisan members of the Senate who came together to pass this bill.”

Before this deal was a twinkle in Alberta Darling’s eye, more than two months ago, I wrote an article about the Bucks arena deal. I ended my plea in A Tale of Two Six Seeds, which compared the San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks, with this question:

“Will Wisconsin’s legislators go the way of San Antonio and agree upon a bipartisan approach to funding the Bucks’ new stadium? Or will lawmakers let partisan politics reach a stalemate and run the risk of losing our Milwaukee Bucks?” 

A month later, I wrote a second article detailing how parts of the arena deal were directly taken from my suggestions. Now, the arena deal is all but sealed.

Facts, lofty proposals that were used by Congress, attempting to take all of the credit for something I didn’t do…am I starting to bore you yet? “Budgeting is boring, your articles need to be more entertaining and colorful” says the part of psyche that hates writing about budgeting.

Here’s why you, readers who aren’t interested (and that part of my psyche) should be interested: if the deal didn’t change, you would literally be paying for it. (Note: this is one of the few times that literally is actually being used correctly. I literally can’t believe how often people misuse that term.)

On average, the original $250 million proposal would have cost Wisconsinites an average of more than $40 per person to fund the new stadium. That’s why I proposed that Milwaukee raise taxes on hotels and rental cars, so that tourists would pay for the stadium rather than you and I.

For those of us who enjoy giving charity to multi-billionaires though, the original $40 per person arena deal was a cliché slam-dunk! To be specific, it was an alley-oop: every single Wisconsinite, even those who live hours from Milwaukee, was expected to toss a wad of cash to billionaires. Walker’s original proposal, which actually resembled a plan beloved by Democrats, simply called for the state to pay for the entire $250 million dollars. That meant every single taxpayer in Wisconsin was originally going to subsidize the Milwaukee Bucks.

This is why last week, on his show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver slammed Wisconsin for being on the brink of passing a publicly financed arena funding deal.

Here’s what happened this week though: under the newly revised deal that passed in Congress, the average Wisconsinite, being someone outside of Milwaukee County, doesn’t pay a single penny.

The original plan only had two major changes: (1) adding a $2 ticket surcharge tax for all arena events and (2) eliminating the state’s plan to provide debt relief for the county.

So, only people who utilize the Bucks (those going to games) or those directly benefitting from the Bucks staying in an economic sense (Milwaukee county residents) will pay for them. Wait, that’s surprisingly smart. It’s so smart, in fact, that legislators didn’t fall into their respective political party lines, as detailed by our Zach Rosen.

“One of the best parts of this deal is that both parties agreed upon the deal in the end. The Democrats and Republicans worked together to find a compromise that made sense for the state and the Milwaukee area. There was not a ‘Democratic’ nor ‘Republican’ side…Bipartisanship at its finest.”

~Zach Rosen

The Unsung Hero: The Man, the Myth, The Mr. Wisconsin

From left to right: Marc Lasry, Herb Kohl, and Wes Edens. (AP)

There is a single person who saved the Bucks, and thus, has propelled Wisconsin into a new era of sports prosperity. This individual is neither Alberta Darling nor Lena Taylor. It’s not Marc Lasry, nor Wesley Edens, or even Mallory Edens. It’s not even of the 21 State Senators who should be named the MVP of the arena deal.

Despite my ever-expanding ego, the objective MVP of the arena deal isn’t even me. It’s the man whose legacy will be set in steel. He is the father of modern Wisconsin sports.

Former Senator Herb Kohl is Mr. Sconnie.

Herb Kohl is quite clearly the most influential Wisconsinite of the past 30 years, especially when focusing on his contribution to Wisconsin sports. He owned the Bucks for 29 years, and paid for the Wisconsin Badgers’ basketball and hockey arena, the Kohl Center. Kohl bought the Bucks in 1985 to ensure that the team remained in Milwaukee, and Kohl sold the Bucks with the exact same goal in mind. He accomplished this by undervaluing the Bucks at $550 million. In return, the contract contained a clause that made the new owners pledge millions for a new stadium.

Additionally, Kohl pledged $100 million of his own money towards the stadium. As we watch our young Bucks thrive in the upcoming years, we should always remember the single individual who kept Milwaukee thriving.

Herb Kohl is to Wisconsin as a certain herb is to Colorado, in that both will propel the economic growth of their respective states by creating additional tax revenues.

If Kohl had simply been seeking out the best deal for himself, he would currently have an additional few hundred million dollars to his name. But, Kohl put Wisconsin first, and now Wisconsin not only has the Bucks, but hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues from the team. We should honor Kohl just as he honored Wisconsinites.

Now that I won’t need to be writing any more budgetary proposals for the next few months, I’ve decided to write a simple new proposal for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Step 1: Create a Bucks jersey for Herb Kohl.

Step 2: Make his jersey #1.

Step 3: Retire the number one.

Herb Kohl should be Wisconsin’s #1 favorite noun. Cheese will most likely be #2. Aaron Rodgers remains a close #3 (this is a proven fact). Different categories of  beer round out #4 through #10.

The Storm is Settling. Probably. Maybe.

The growth of the Bucks’ prestige as a perennial powerhouse in the East seems to be imminent. All signs point to the impending economic growth of Milwaukee, spurred by an influx of more than $1 billion of building in downtown Milwaukee.

The arena deal, going forward: In the next weeks, the 99 representatives in the Wisconsin State Assembly still have the opportunity to revise the current bill. They could, for instance, make the ticket surcharge a percentage fee rather than charging everyone, from those in the nosebleeds to those sitting on the court, a flat $2 fee. If the majority of representatives in the lower house of Wisconsin’s legislature vote in favor of the current arena deal though, and don’t suggest any changes, then the bill will go to the Milwaukee City Council before being passed to Scott Walker. Governor Walker has stated he supports the current bill. The Bucks are painfully close to officially being saved.

I like to think that satire is effective. So, when I wrote last week about changing the the Bucks’ name to the Wisconsin Bucks I was trying to point out how ridiculous it was to force Wisconsinites from way up nort’ to pay for a team they supported less than the Bulls. I was relieved to see the state’s contribution. The people using the facility should pay for the facility. That’s a simple and logical idea.

In an ideal world, the entirety of public funding would be raised by increasing hotel and rental car taxes in Milwaukee county, alongside the proposed ticket surcharges. This way, the overwhelming proportion of funds are being paid by either tourists or Bucks fans. This is exactly what San Antonio did. In San Antonio, $146.5 million of the stadium finances were generated through a county tax increase and an increase in hotel and rental car taxes. The Spurs contributed $28.5 million, which was raised through a $1.00 increase in ticket fees for NBA games and a $1.00 parking surcharge.

San Antonio has won four championships since moving into their new stadium. Coincidence? Definitely. But would the Spurs have moved out of San Antonio without a new deal that was economically responsible? Definitely.

With the recent stellar signings of Greg Monroe and Khris Middleton, the Bucks are looking to contend for a championship in the next few years. I touched on this shift in the NBA power structure in my first article

There is a revolution in the NBA, a democratization of the game that is making playoff parity the norm. The most shocking part is that many of the teams fueling this revolution are located in relatively small markets.

One of the three reasons that I stated for the Bucks’ immaculate turnaround from being the worst team in the NBA was our decision to invest wisely. The current Bucks arena proposal isn’t perfect, but it is a solid improvement from the previous deal and an overall great investment for Wisconsin.

The timing for signing the Bucks’ arena bill is not as important as the fact that bipartisan discussions have brought this deal to the brink of being signed. The Milwaukee Bucks are, by all accounts, most likely staying in Milwaukee.

We’ve saved our Bucks. Probably. Hopefully.

I see him winning it so well, that my name is made illustrious there by the light of his.

~A Tale of Two Cities: The Track of a Storm (Book the Third)

I see (the Bucks) winning it so well, that (Milwaukee’s) name is made illustrious there by the light of (the Bucks).

~A Tale of Two Six Seeds: The Track of a Storm (Article the Third)

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