Assembly Dems from Milwaukee say they’re still digesting the proposed Bucks package and need time to decide if they support the concept.
But they have largely already come to one conclusion: No matter how the final package looks, it wouldn’t be enough to win their support of the budget on final passage if it remains as is.
“I will never support that budget,” Rep. Christine Sinicki said, declining further comment until the delegation can meet next week.
Some of the Milwaukee Assembly Dems interviewed today said they’re not ready to back the deal because they have yet to see the package put into writing and get a fuller explanation on it.
“Senate Democrats and Assembly Democrats have not had a seat at the table in negotiations,” Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa said.
Rep. Dan Riemer said he would be more comfortable with the public dollars that would go to the arena if Republicans and the guv would accept federal Medicaid money to expand the program through the Affordable Care Act. He also has concerns Republicans will attach conditions to the package that would lower wages for those who work on the project, noting past proposals to create right-to-work free zones in Milwaukee, for example.
Leggie Republicans are still weighing whether to include the package in the budget or break it out into standalone legislation.
The latter, many believe, would require Dems' support for passage. Rep. Evan Goyke said he wants to see more details before he saying if he would support a standalone bill. But the effect on Milwaukee schools in the budget as drafted, for example, would prevent him from voting for that document even if the Bucks deal was included. That includes a plan that would allow for the takeover of failing Milwaukee schools.
“I want to see an arena," Goyke said. "But what’s the point if our schools are devastated?”
Some believe if the hangup is in the Senate, that chamber could take up the budget first without the arena deal. Then when the document was sent to the Assembly, members of that house could vote to add the arena package as an amendment with Dem support and send it back to the Senate for a straight up or down vote on the amended budget. The theory, some say, is that would give senators some cover on the arena deal because it would be in the budget without them putting it there. Others question if that would truly shield anyone from attacks over backing legislation that included the deal.
Rep. Fred Kessler said if it came to a vote to add the package to the budget as an amendment, backers would have to address his concerns over things such as collecting outstanding debts to cover $4 million a year in county payments.
Rep. Josh Zepnick said in addition to the collection of outstanding debts, he has concerns about turning over county land for next to nothing to be part of the possible development around the arena. He wants assurances that minority businesses, for example, would win some contracts on the arena and that more than just bars and restaurants are included in the business corridor around the project.
“I would love to get to a point where we should not only keep the Bucks, but have a fair deal for Milwaukee taxpayers,” Zepnick said.
-- By JR Ross
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