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By D.L. Davis March 28, 2023

Evers’ Brewers stadium funding proposal is not exactly a bipartisan plan

If Your Time is short

  • A coalition of business and community leaders who support the plan does include Republicans and Democrats as members

  • But Republican lawmakers say they were not consulted before the plan was announced.

  • A top GOP leader has called the plan dead, but says a new one that can win Republican support in the Legislature can be negotiated.

In 1995, Republican Gov. Tommy G. Thompson infamously said "stick it to ’em" as he told residents of central Wisconsin that a new Milwaukee Brewers stadium would benefit the entire state of Wisconsin, but the tab would be picked up by residents of southeastern Wisconsin. 

In the end, a five-county sales tax that paid for what became Miller Park — 0.1% in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Waukesha, Racine and Washington counties — generated $605 million, or around $342 per person in those counties, until it was retired in 2020 after being in effect for more than two decades, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in February 2022. 

Now discussions are underway on how to pay for stadium improvements that Brewers officials say will be needed at American Family Field, formerly Miller Park, over the next several years.

In a proposal announced Feb. 14, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called for spending $290 million on stadium renovations to help ensure the Milwaukee Brewers stay in Wisconsin. The provision is part of his $104 billion state budget proposal for 2023-25, which taps the current state surplus of $7 billion.

As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Evers wants to put $290 million in cash in an escrow account operated by the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, a state-created agency that owns American Family Field, to cover the long-term improvements. In return, the Brewers would extend their current ballpark lease, which could expire by the end of 2030, and agree to stay in Milwaukee through 2043.

Evers called it a historic opportunity "to keep Major League Baseball here in Milwaukee for another 20 years." 

But the day the plan was unveiled, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, had this to say on Twitter: "When the Bucks had a similar situation, Democrats and Republicans worked together to find a solution on the best path forward. Instead, Governor Evers drops this bomb in the budget, never mentioning or attempting to collaborate with the Legislature in any way."

In early March, Vos declared Evers’ plan is likely "dead" and said he supported crafting a new plan, one that could win passage in the GOP-controlled Legislature. 

Evers’ team, meanwhile, touted the proposal on Twitter, saying the governor "proudly worked with the Brewers on a bipartisan plan to retain one of our state’s greatest traditions and economic engines."

That caught our attention.

Is the money for upgrades to the Milwaukee Brewers stadium in Evers’ budget "a bipartisan plan"?

Is the plan bipartisan?

The March 8 tweet was from Evers spokesperson Britt Cudaback. But since she is speaking on the governor’s behalf, we are attributing it to the governor, per PolitiFact practice.

When asked to support the statement, Cudaback pointed to the March 8 announcement of a statewide group of community and business leaders who launched the Home Crew Coalition, chaired by Omar Shaikh, a Milwaukee-area restaurateur, developer and Brewers fan. 

"Joining Shaikh, the membership of the Home Crew Coalition is comprised of leaders from all corners of the state, with diverse backgrounds," Cudaback said.

 Other members include: 

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  • Andrew Disch, North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters; 

  • Mike Grebe, retired attorney, local philanthropist, and former chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin; 

  • Dan Kapanke, La Crosse Loggers Baseball Team owner and former Republican state senator; 

  • Tracy Johnson, Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin; 

  • Ashok Rai, Prevea Health; 

  • Peggy Smith, Visit Milwaukee; 

  • Jim Villa, NAIOP Wisconsin (an organization for real estate developers, owners and investors) ;  

  • Rob Zerjav, president/CEO and managing partner of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 

So, the Home Crew membership does have Republicans among its members — with Grebe and Kapanke being obvious ones. But that is different from calling the plan itself bipartisan.

First, Evers’ team has noted the agreement was negotiated with the Brewers, not the community leaders who came out in support after it was announced. Second, and importantly, Republican lawmakers — who will be needed to pass it — were not consulted.

"Neither Governor Evers nor anyone from his administration has reached out to me, or any Republican I am aware of, about his Brewers proposal," said state Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, a co-chair of state's budget writing committee, in an email.

As for the Brewers, Rick Schlesinger, president of business operations, said in a statement reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "The Brewers want nothing more than to continue playing baseball in Milwaukee for another generation, but the Stadium District needs the resources necessary to make that possible."

"We appreciate Gov. Evers’ leadership in working with the Brewers to put forth a responsible plan to keep Major League Baseball in our state and we remain committed to working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to secure a bipartisan agreement on the path forward," Schlesinger added.

Our ruling

According to Evers, the money for upgrades to the Milwaukee Brewers stadium in the governor’s budget is "a bipartisan plan."

There are some prominent people with Republican ties who are part of a group that supports the plan, which the Evers administration developed with the Brewers. But that’s a far cry from describing the plan itself as bipartisan, particularly when it is being introduced as part of the budget process, which requires Republicans’ support to secure passage.

And no incumbent Republican state lawmaker has come out in favor of the plan, let alone any legislative leaders.

For a statement that contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, we rate this claim Mostly False. 


Our Sources

Britt Cudaback, office of Gov. Tony Evers, Twitter,  March 8, 2023

Email, Britt Cudaback, March 18, 2023

Email, Storm Linjer, office of Rep. Mark Born, March 17, 2023

Email, Angela Joyce, office of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, March 20, 2023

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos,Twitter, Feb. 14, 2023

News release "Statewide Coalition Launches to Support the Future of Brewers Ballpark," March 8, 2023

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The Brewers stadium sales tax ended two years ago to applause. Here's how we're back to again talking about public help for the ballpark," Feb. 14, 2022.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Brewers say American Family Field needs more public cash. Gov. Evers is proposing $290 million," Feb. 14, 2023

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed state budget: What's in it? And what is likely to make it through the Legislature?," March 14, 2023.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says Tony Evers' $290 million Brewers deal for long-term American Family Field improvements likely 'dead', March 8, 2023

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Budget surplus pushes Wisconsin's financial reserves to an all-time high. But how did we get here?," Dec. 15, 2022

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Evers’ Brewers stadium funding proposal is not exactly a bipartisan plan

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