Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 10, 2019
MADISON — Conspicuously missing from dozens of bills passed by the Wisconsin Senate Tuesday was a measure that finally puts an end to the Miller Park sales tax, 23 years after the special taxing district was born.
While some Capitol insiders are concerned Senate leadership is unnecessarily delaying a final vote, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald tells Empower Wisconsin the bill, co-authored by Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) will make it to the floor.
“I foresee Sen. Wanggaard’s bill passing before the end of session,” the Juneau Republican said.
“We’ll discuss the legislation at a caucus before setting future calendars,” Fitzgerald said.
The senator told Empower Wisconsin that Republicans have discussed the bill in caucus and that lawmakers plan to meet with Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio and the officials from the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball District board of directors.
“It’s just a matter of getting the high sign,” Fitzgerald said.
A 0.1 percent sales tax has been in place in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha counties since 1996, pumping in more than a half billion dollars to fund construction of Miller Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers.
State officials originally had hoped the tax would go away five years ago. A down economy at the end of last decade and the rise of untaxed online sales extended the tax’s timeline. At least that’s what district officials said at the time.
Controversial, to say the least, the sales tax cost state Sen. George Petak (R-Racine) his job. Voters recalled the senator after he cast the deciding vote for the district and its taxing authority.
In June, the Assembly passed the Miller Park tax-sunset bill on a voice vote.
“This is a great day for taxpayers in Racine, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha Counties, and the State of Wisconsin” Rep. Robert Wittke (R-Racine) said in a statement to Patch after the bill moved through committee. “We will close the roof on a sales tax that is long overdue.”
A consultant for the stadium district in 2018 said that, barring any economic downturns, the district was in position to retire the sales tax “sometime between late calendar year 2019 and early calendar year 2020.” For now, the Miller Park tax goes on.