April 21, 2009

Can a state loan help end Miller Park tax earlier?

Maybe so, but we have our doubts. The end date of this onerous tax imposed on Racine to pay for Milwaukee's baseball stadium just keeps moving into the future. Nonetheless, the possibility of it ending sooner rather than later was raised today by State Sen. John Lehman. His office sent out the following statement, about an amendment adopted by the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee, on which both he and Rep. Cory Mason serve:
A motion authored by State Sen. John Lehman and Rep. Cory Mason, both D-Racine, that could help lower the cost of paying off the Miller Park baseball stadium was adopted by a 13-2 vote of the Joint Finance Committee today. Lehman’s amendment would allow the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL) to make a low-interest loan to the Miller Park Stadium District, helping retire the debt and more quickly and end the 0.1% sales tax levied in Racine, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee Counties to fund the project.

Lehman noted, “The national recession has led to a slowing of sales tax collections. Consequently, the Miller Park debt is being paid off more slowly and that could mean the sales tax may not expire as originally projected. My amendment will help provide some savings and retire the debt as quickly as possible.”

Under current law the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands manages a program that provides low-interest loans to municipalities. The interest repaid on the loans is then used to help fund public school libraries. It is estimated that the BCPL currently has approximately $70 million to loan.

By adding the Miller Park Stadium District to the list of entities eligible to receive BCPL loans the district could – if the interest rate offered by the BCPL were lower than rate currently paid by the stadium district – refinance a portion of the debt. The reduced debt repayment costs could result in the entire debt being paid off more quickly and the sales tax being discontinued.
Lehman concluded, “This amendment isn’t going to pay off Miller Park tomorrow but it could help offset the slowdown in tax collections and end the tax more quickly. That’s a win, win, win situation – the stadium district borrows at a better rate, school libraries benefit from the interest paid on the loan and taxpayers in Racine and the other four counties could see the sales tax end more quickly that it would have otherwise.”


  1. Onerous tax? Milwaukee's stadium? I understand this is a hot button item for some, but one tenth of one percent is hardly onerous. I know several Racinians who go to many Brewers games each year, most of whom purchase 9-packs or 20-packs of tickets; it is not just Milwaukeeans. Isn't it time to stop thinking parochially and expand our regional vision?

  2. Anon 7:28 - then have your friends who buy the 9 and 20 packs pay extra taxes or fees to fund their damn stadium. The majority of us don't go, don't want to go, and sure as hell don't want to pay for it.

  3. I blame Bob Turner.