Some Republicans push for Bucks arena funding plan to be stand-alone measure

MADISON -- There's not yet a funding plan in place for the new Milwaukee Bucks arena in downtown Milwaukee, but there is a new question: Should the plan be included in the state budget -- or should it be a stand-alone measure?

Bucks officials have unveiled plans for a $500 million arena and $500 million sports and entertainment complex that would transform downtown Milwaukee. The entertainment district would be paid for mostly by private enterprises — but the arena requires public funding.

How much money the state would contribute to the project is just one part of the arena funding puzzle.

Bucks current and former owners have pledged $250 million towards the project. That leaves $250 million left in order to reach that $500 million goal.

Recent proposals had the state paying between $150 million and $220 million toward the project. Now, a source tells FOX6 News the state's contribution could be closer to $80 million -- $55 million in principal and the rest in interest. Payments on the state debt would be made with income tax collected from members of the Milwaukee Bucks and NBA teams they play in Milwaukee.

FOX6's news partners at News/Talk 1130 say the city and county would provide $80 million.

FOX6's partners at the Milwaukee Business Journal say much of the city's contribution would be building a $35 million parking structure.

Governor Scott Walker says nothing that's been reported publicly so far has reached "an absolute conclusion."

We've learned the arena funding plan may not be done for days, which means the Joint Finance Committee wouldn't get it until next week. This, as Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald tells FOX6's partners at the Milwaukee Business Journal the arena project may become its own separate issue, and it may not be a part of the state budget.

"The arena proposal, we don`t even have the final language on it. We haven`t seen that yet, so I think that`s gonna take a little bit to be cooked here, so that needs to go outside the budget and get its special due attention," Senate President Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) said.

UW-Milwaukee Professor Mordecai Lee says typically, the advantage to folding something controversial into the budget is that a lawmaker can avoid having that specific vote attached to his or her name.

Lee says in this case, the arena funding issue is so high-profile, every legislator will have to wear this vote regardless of whether it is part of the budget.

"It seems to me that if somebody votes for the budget with the arena issue in it and then they get criticized for voting for the arena issue, they can`t hide behind the usual argument of 'well that was only one of 900 provisions and I thought the other ones were okay,'" Lee said.

When asked whether lawmakers would make the arena funding plan a stand-alone measure, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) wrote: "We have not ruled this out, but as of right now, we are working on the proposal with the understanding it will likely be in the budget. There should be more information available in the next couple days."

Despite her stance, Lazich says she is pro-arena.

"I tend to think everyone wants that to happen, the question is can we do it? Can we afford it? And how do we find the budget to do it? I do not think the budget is the path," Lazich said.

Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) says he also prefers that the arena funding plan not be part of the budget.

When asked whether they would vote for a budget that included an arena funding plan, Lazich and Wanggaard said they aren't drawing that line -- at least not until they see a final arena funding proposal.