By Ken Reed

Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker is running for president. On the campaign trail, he loves to position himself as an anti-tax, small-government candidate.

But when it comes to funding sports palaces for wealthy team owners in his state, he’s fine with using taxpayer money.

Walker is pushing a plan to build a new, 80% taxpayer-financed, arena for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. Sports economists have called his plan “sports extortion.” Others have pointed out how it is the exact opposite stance to his campaign attacks against handouts to special interests.

Walker’s push for a new publicly-financed arena for the Bucks follows his support of a taxpayer-financed baseball stadium for Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers back in 1995.

At least he’s consistent.

The tax increase for the Brewers’ stadium, now known as Miller Park, was scheduled to sunset in 2010. But as the 2015 baseball season started, the state still owed $195 million on Miller Park’s debt. Analysts now say that taxpayers will need to keep paying the tax until 2020, if not longer, unless another revenue source is found.

Huffington Post sports reporter Travis Waldron perfectly described the essence of the Walker plan, and similar publicly-financed stadium and arena plans around the country:

“The primary benefits of tax-financed sports stadiums instead go largely toward franchise owners who get a new stadium, revenue sources and often a sizable increase in the franchise’s value without taking on the project’s debt or financial risk.”

A sidenote: John Hammes, a member of the investment group that owns the Bucks, is the fundraising chairman for Walker’s presidential campaign.

Maybe that’s the best indication of Walker’s true values when it comes to tax policy.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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