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Withholding from professional athletes total in the millions every year.
In 2022, withholding from Major League Baseball teams alone totaled about $12.4 million
- In 2022, taxes from visiting pro athletes in baseball, basketball and football topped $50 million.
In his 2023-25 budget proposal, Gov. Tony Evers called for tapping a state surplus to spend $290 million on stadium renovations to help ensure the Milwaukee Brewers stay in Wisconsin.
The cash would go into an escrow account operated by the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, a state-created agency that owns American Family Field and leases it to the Brewers. 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.
But Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said the stadium funding question should be taken up outside of the budget process, and has argued there are other sources of money that could better be tapped to address the issue.
(In March we rated Mostly False a claim by Evers that the original plan was "bipartisan" in nature.)
In a March 9 appearance on a "Wisconsin Right Now" podcast, and more recently at the Milwaukee Press Club, Vos has noted that taxes paid by visiting professional athletes could be tapped as a revenue source.
Here is what he said on the podcast:
"When a basketball player or football or baseball player from another team plays in Wisconsin, that one game's salary, they pay Wisconsin income tax on it. ... So, if for some reason we do not have the Brewers in Wisconsin all of those player salaries that generate dollars for the state of Wisconsin go away," Vos said.
This statement piqued our interest.
Is it true that if the Brewers leave town, Wisconsin’s tax coffers would take a hit?
If a pro athlete plays in a state that collects income tax, any money made from that game is taxed as income earned in that state, which is informally known as a "jock tax."
The jock tax has been around in some form since the 1960s, according to several online sources. However, the practice heated up in the 1990s, after the state of California slapped the tax on the earnings of Chicago Bulls players who traveled to Los Angeles for the 1991 NBA finals. Illinois retaliated, imposing a similar tax on out of state players.
The Vos claim came in response to a question about baseball players, so let’s start there.
Patricia A. Mayers, communications director for the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, provided a breakdown of the amount of Wisconsin withholding from MLB teams by year, noting It doesn't account for non-wage income of the team employees or any income of individuals who are not employed by the teams.
State withholding by year
2012 $8.4 million
2013 $8 million
2014 $8.9 million
2015 $9.2 million
2016 $7.8 million
2017 $8.8 million
2018 $11.9 million
2019 $12.3 million
2020 $5 million
2021 $10.5 million
2022 $12.4 million
Meanwhile, these are the figures for the three top-level professional leagues in which there is a Wisconsin team, in millions by year:
So, in 2022 alone, taxes from those visiting athletes topped $50 million.
Vos said: "When a basketball player or football or baseball player from another team plays in Wisconsin, that one game's salary, they pay Wisconsin income tax on it. ... So, if for some reason we do not have the Brewers in Wisconsin all of those player salaries that generate dollars for the state of Wisconsin go away."
Indeed, in 2022 alone, state income taxes on visiting players in the big three leagues topped $50 million.
For a statement that is accurate and has nothing significant missing, our rating is True.
Twitter, Speaker Robin Vos, Feb. 14, 2023
YouTube "Wisconsin Right Now," Robin Vos, March 9, 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 9, 2023.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio expresses optimism about more public money for American Family Field," April 3, 2023
AWM financial services "What is the jock tax? A guide for athletes," Feb. 4, 2022.
PolitiFact Wisconsin Will Wisconsin taxpayers get 'tremendous' payback for money spent on new Fiserv Forum? May 22, 2019.
Email, Patricia A. Mayers, Department of Revenue, April 27 and May 11, 2023
Email Angela Joyce, office of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, April 28, 2023
Email, staffer, Legislative Fiscal Bureau, April 27, 2023
Huddle Up "Why Athletes Pay Taxes In Every State They Play In," April 17, 2023.
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