Carpenter wants arena ticket surcharge, removal of luxury box tax exemption

July 07. 2015 10:50AM 

Carpenter wants arena ticket surcharge, removal of luxury box tax exemption

State Senator Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, says there should be a ticket surcharge for events at the proposed arena in downtown Milwaukee and the sales tax exemption for luxury boxes at the arena should be eliminated.

The BMO Harris Bradley Center already has a ticket surcharge and luxury box holders can afford to pay sales taxes, Carpenter said. Both would provide revenue streams to help pay for a new arena.

“I’ve long said both a ticket surcharge and making luxury boxes subject to the sales tax are essential to any deal to make sure that those who benefit from the area are the ones who support its construction,” Carpenter said in a news release.

The Legislature’s Joint Survey Committee on Tax Exemptions was scheduled to meet this morning to discuss Carpenter’s proposals, but the meeting was cancelled shortly before it was scheduled to begin.

Carpenter said the meeting cancellation is a sign that there is not enough support to pass the arena plan.

“I think it’s an indication of problems in River City,” Carpenter told BizTimes Milwaukee this morning. “I think (Republicans) tried to rush this too much. I think the Republican leadership has done a lousy job. They are screwing this thing up.”

However Zach Bemis, a spokesman for Sen. Devin LeMahieu, who is co-chair of the Joint Survey Committee on Tax Exemptions, said the meeting was only cancelled because of a scheduling conflict. Republicans were caucusing on the budget this morning. The Joint Survey Committee on Tax Exemptions meeting will be rescheduled, he said.

Carpenter could be a key vote for the arena deal. Republicans say they will need some Democratic votes to pass the arena deal and since the arena would be built in Milwaukee, Democrats from Milwaukee are getting extra attention.

Carpenter is a former Milwaukee Bucks season ticket holder. The NBA says a new arena is needed in Milwaukee to keep the Bucks here long term. The current and former owners of the Bucks have pledged to pay for half the cost of the proposed $500 million arena, plus any cost overruns and maintenance and operational costs of the building. The state Legislature is reviewing a public financing proposal for the other half of the project, which would provide funds for the arena from the state, city, county and Wisconsin Center District (which runs the downtown Milwaukee convention center, the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena and the Milwaukee Theatre).

“I want the Bucks to stay,” Carpenter said. “I know the value of the Bucks.”

But Carpenter has been critical of the proposed arena deal. He said Republicans should hold public hearings in Milwaukee on the arena financing plan. Democrats have been shut out of negotiations on the arena deal and Carpenter said that Republicans have not reached out to him to get his support.

“They don’t include other people (in the negotiations), how can they expect to get their votes?” Carpenter said.

Republicans should start over on the arena deal by bringing all sides to the table and working to drive a harder bargain with business interests, Carpenter said.

“We have to go back to the negotiating stage and negotiate a little bit harder,” he said. “I don’t know why local businesses and the (Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce) are not coming up with $25 million (for the arena). I don’t understand why Marquette (University) isn’t contributing anything.”

The Joint Finance Committee met for more than five hours Monday in a public informational hearing to gather information about the arena deal. Milwaukee Bucks president Peter Feigin, MMAC president Tim Sheehy, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett all appeared before the committee.

During Monday’s hearing, state Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, raised concerns about the Wisconsin Center District’s part of the deal. The Wisconsin Center District would own the arena and provide $93 million, plus interest, which would be the largest public share of the project.

Taylor complained that the Wisconsin Center District was not involved with the arena deal negotiations and was not invited to Monday’s hearing.

“Governor (Scott) Walker and Republicans have dropped the ball on this arena deal from day one by not only excluding legislative Democrats from the negotiations, but the Wisconsin Center District as well,” Taylor said in a statement. “To leave a major partner out of negotiations, propose a bill that disbands their governing board and then stick them with a huge bill speaks volumes as to why this deal isn’t done yet. Arrogant mistakes like this have put this entire deal in jeopardy. It is so very critical that we craft a responsible deal that is fair for all interested parties.”

Representatives for state Senate Majority Leaders Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, could not immediately be reached for comment this morning.


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