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Daily Tax Report: State

Milwaukee’s Baseball Stadium Tax About to Phase Out

Nov. 6, 2019, 9:14 PM

Taxpayers in southeastern Wisconsin will be free of paying $30 million a year in a special baseball stadium tax supporting Miller Park, home to the Milwaukee Brewers, under legislation headed to Gov. Tony Evers (D).

The Wisconsin Senate Nov. 5 unanimously supported A.B. 73, which permanently retires the stadium tax beginning Jan. 1, 2020. The 23-year-old revenue program imposes a 0.1% sales and use tax on all retail sales, licenses, leases, and rentals within the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District. The district captures five counties in Southeast Wisconsin including Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington, and Waukesha.

The bill passed the Assembly in June and now heads to Evers, who is widely expected to sign it.

The Legislature created the special purpose tax program in 1995 to generate revenue for the construction, debt financing, and operation of Miller Park. The program was designed to sunset after the outstanding debts for the stadium were retired. The district released a fiscal analysis in March recommending the tax be withdrawn in 2020.

The tax has never been a home run with many lawmakers and taxpayers, with some complaining the stadium was more expensive than originally envisioned. Critics also argued the debt service and operational expenses kept the tax program pumping for five years beyond its original sunset date.

Sen. Van H. Wanggaard (R) said the price of the stadium was initially pegged at $160 million, but cost overruns and infrastructure expenses jacked the price tag to $260 million. Taxpayers’ obligations more than doubled as the stadium’s debts were paid down.

“After 23 years, $577 million, and countless broken promises, perceived and real, it is time to end the Miller Park tax and put this sad subject behind us, so we can focus on the product on the field rather than who’s paying for the field,” Wanggaard told lawmakers during a hearing on the bill in March.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael J. Bologna in Chicago at mbologna@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeff Harrington at jharrington@bloombergtax.com; Meg Shreve at mshreve@bloombergtax.com

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