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No new taxes, no hole in the state budget, and no loss of Wisconsin's professional basketball team -- or the revenue they provide.
Those were the big talking points for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on Tuesday morning, as Walker outlined a plan to use NBA player tax revenues to finance $220 million in bonding for a new multi-purpose arena in downtown Milwaukee. In a short prepared presentation at the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, Walker noted that NBA players currently pay $6.52 million annually in state income taxes, and that the projected growth in player salaries (and thus tax collections) could finance the full $220 million in revenue bonds included in his new state budget. Central to that projected growth is the NBA's new nine-year, $24 billion TV deal starting in 2016, an agreement that will roughly triple the current $900 million in television money split among franchises. Moreover, Walker also announced that if the team were ever sold during the tenor of the debt -- whether the franchise left Milwaukee or not -- the first draw on sale proceeds would go towards fully paying off the remaining debt obligation at that time.
Combined with the $250 million already pledged by current Bucks ownership and former owner Herb Kohl, Walker's proposed $220 million financing would put proposed project funding already in the vicinity of the $450 to $500 million estimated for a new arena. Not that anything is guaranteed: While Walker's proposal is included in the new state budget he's formally submitting this coming week, it would still require approval of the state legislature and thus will undoubtedly face challenges over the coming months.
Still, Walker's support, the packaging of the proposal and the sheer magnitude of the dollars being discussed should make this a banner day for Bucks fans. While the proposal is dependent on the league's continued growth, much of the short-term risk is mitigated by the league's new long-term TV deal, and ultimately this was always the cleanest way to use public funds without new taxes or a diversion of existing tax revenues.
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