GOP unveils $700 million Brewers stadium bill to keep team until 2050, here's how lawmakers are reacting

NOW: GOP unveils $700 million Brewers stadium bill to keep team until 2050, here’s how lawmakers are reacting

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Republican lawmakers unveiled a $700 million proposal to extend the Milwaukee Brewers lease until 2050, with the bulk of the funding coming from the state and locals, including a $100 million contribution from the team.

The sweeping proposal mirrors CBS 58's reporting last week outlining a plan to pay for renovations at American Family Field, including winterizing the stadium, and in return, the team would extend their lease in Milwaukee over the next 27 years.

The state's contribution would be covered by income taxes collected from the Brewers and visiting teams, which would generate an estimated total of $643.6 million over the length of the lease, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Another component of the bill would require Milwaukee County and the city of Milwaukee to chip in $7.5 million each year until 2050 when the lease expires. In total, that's $202.5 million they would have to cover for upgrades at the stadium.  

The Milwaukee Brewers have also pledged to contribute $100 million. The proposal doesn't include any additional funding from the Brewers or taxpayers, instead it relies on players' salaries including visiting teams and funding from the city and county. 

"If the Brewers leave, there is no question that all of that income tax revenue leaves the state of Wisconsin," Rep. Robert Brooks (R-Saukville) said at press conference. "It's cheaper to keep them."

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson was critical of the city and county's contribution. He noted the roughly $200 million would likely come from revenue generated by new sales tax starting in 2024, taxpayer funds that were designed to fund police and other services. 

"We worked over the last few months to avoid a fiscal cliff in the coming years and now that's done -- 2024 is when will start implementing our local option sales tax and brining in those revenues," Johnson said. "I want to make sure we can meet our obligations under that (shared revenue) bill."

In May, Milwaukee County Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution opposing county tax dollars to fund renovations at the Brewers stadium. A poll conducted by a Democratic leaning group, Milwaukee Works, survey more than 600 county residents and found 56% oppose using taxpayer money for projects. 

It's why some supervisors and lawmakers call the stadium bill a bad deal. 

"This is another chance to kick Milwaukee and Milwaukee County while they are financially down and it's frustrating to see," said Rep. Ryan Clancy, who also serves as a county board supervisor. "With the shared revenue package just having gone through and just making us solvent for a few years, now there's another demand."

Brooks and other Republican authors of the bill said there would be room for additional negotiations as the proposal makes its way through the committee process.

“It is a better deal for the taxpayer, whether you ever come to a Brewers game or you ever come to a concert at this venue," said Assembly Speaker Rep. Robin Vos (R) Rochester. "It is definitely better for the taxpayer to have revenue being generated here to keep the team and all the economic benefits than it would be to have them leave."

Any bill would need approval from Gov. Tony Evers. Britt Cudaback, Evers' spokeswoman, suggested in a statement there should be some tweaks to ensure it "provides additional flexibility and minimizes harm for local partners."

Earlier this year, Evers proposed giving the stadium district $290 million in state funding by tapping the state's surplus.

"While it’s good to hear Republicans are getting serious about keeping Major League Baseball in Wisconsin, it’s unfortunate Republicans rejected Gov. Evers’ commonsense proposal that ultimately would’ve saved taxpayers millions of dollars in the long run," Cudaback said.

She added, "Gov. Evers looks forward to reviewing Republicans’ proposal and continuing conversations on a plan."

Sen. Chris Larson, a Milwaukee Democrat, said he'd like some changes to include a bigger contribution beyond $100 million from the Brewers now that upgrades will include winterizing the ballpark for concerts and other events. 

"Every time the venue is used for anything else, the Brewers keep all that money," Larson said. "I think it should require taxpayers get some of that money back if it's just going to fatten the wallet of one owner."

The proposal does include discounted tickets to Wisconsin residents at least one home game each month during the season. 

Based on a handful of responses from lawmakers, this appears to be just the start of many more discussions on the funding package. 

"There’s still work to be done, but the framework of the proposal introduced today will hopefully garner the bipartisan support necessary to keep the Brewers in Milwaukee until 2050," Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said in a statement. 

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