Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, seeking the Republican nomination for president, is receiving some criticism for his decision to support a new basketball arena after cutting funds for the state’s university system.
It turns out both decisions had the same price tag, at least on the surface: $250 million.
Walker approved a state budget that slashed a quarter of a billion dollars from the University of Wisconsin, then followed that up by signing a bill that calls for taxpayers to pay for half the $500-million cost of a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. The action was taken under threat from NBA officials that, if it wasn’t done, they would relocate the team to Seattle or Las Vegas. The New York Times’ Michael Powell characterized it as a classic “arena-shakedown…right out of the professional sports owner handbook.” He called its timing “inauspicious.”
“It is difficult to think of a clearer illustration of a politician’s comically misplaced priorities,” Jordan Weissman wrote at Slate. Although the state is supposed to pay $250 million for the arena, once interest on the bonds is factored in, taxpayers will end up paying closer to $400 million, noted Weissman.
Democratic Milwaukee County executive Chris Abele, who worked with Walker and his staff to structure the deal, confessed that he nonetheless opposed it. “If Congress considered a law that would prevent any public financing for sports stadiums, I would support that,” he told the Times.
Walker’s cutting of a quarter of a billion dollars from the school system…