Another huge step was taken down the road to a new arena in downtown Milwaukee today, as the Wisconsin State Assembly approved the financing deal passed by the State Senate two weeks ago by a resounding 52-34 margin. The final vote included 35 Republicans and 17 Democrats, clearing the way for Gov. Scott Walker to sign the historic bill and assure the Bucks' long-term future in Milwaukee.
While the arena package must still pass a vote by the Milwaukee Common Council in September, no one expects serious hurdles in approving a planned $35 million city parking structure and $12 million tax incremental financing district. Moreover, the state's recently-approved budget clears the way for County Executive Chris Abele to sell the Park East land without full County Board approval, simplifying the process of selling the county-owned Park East land for arena development purposes. That said, the Senate's decision to exclude a controversial county debt assignment provision figures to leave room for continued debate on how the county will actually fund its $4 million annual obligation.
In advance of the vote, members of the Milwaukee Bucks organization were on hand to lend their support to a "Yes" vote on the deal.
Assembly members took to the floor to voice opinions on the deal around midday. Expressed sentiments were strongly supportive of the deal, hinting at the margin seen in the final vote.
"We are investing in a business, that has the wherewithal to invest millions into Park East, which is sorely needed." - @RepKnodl— Paul Henning (@brewcitypaul) July 28, 2015
Rep. Spiros says that 70% of constituents said "yes" after it was explained in full to them. Also cites Bradley Center obligations #SB209— Doug Russell (@DougRussell) July 28, 2015
Thanks to Senator Herb Kohl for his generosity and helping us to make this a good deal for taxpayers #Bucks— Peter Barca (@PeterWBarca) July 28, 2015
Following the vote, the Bucks also issued a statement from team president Peter Feigin:
"Today, our collective effort to create a world-class sports and entertainment district in the heart of Milwaukee took a monumental step forward thanks to the bipartisan leadership of elected officials in Madison. We’re incredibly grateful for the commitment of state, county and city officials to work together in a historic fashion to help shape this public-private partnership. There’s still work to be done and we look forward to building on this progress with the city and county, but the passage of legislation today makes our future much clearer. The Bucks will not only remain home in Wisconsin, but we’ll soon begin a transformative economic development project that will help revitalize our community and region."