Line in President Obama’s budget would throw Bucks’ arena plans into question

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The Bucks’ future home is currently in a state of uncertainty. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has proposed $220 million in state bonds for a new arena, which would be an upgrade over the ancient BMO Harris Bradley Center. But the use of public funds has been controversial, and President Obama’s latest budget proposal would prevent the plan from proceeding.

From USA Today:

If President Obama has his way, the nation’s taxpayers would not help finance a new arena proposed for the Milwaukee Bucks professional basketball team.

Nor would taxpayer-financed, tax-free bonds be used to help finance a new stadium being discussed in St. Louis for the NFL Rams, or in Oakland for a new complex aimed at keeping the area’s professional football, baseball and basketball franchises from leaving town.

An obscure item in the president’s new budget would put an end to the long-standing practice of states and cities using tax-exempt bonds to finance professional sports arenas, a practice that costs the U.S. Treasury $146 million, according to a 2012 Bloomberg analysis.

The proposal comes as many team owners are pressing cities and states for new facilities, with some threatening to move elsewhere if they don’t get them. State and local officials are wary of seeing pro teams depart, taking prestige and tax revenue with them. But they are also taxpayer-minded and budget-conscious.

Public funding has been instrumental in recent arena projects. It’s how the Kings are able to stay in Sacramento, and the arena that would have housed them if they had moved to Seattle in 2013 would have been built partially with public funding.

But there are many people who wonder, understandably so, whether taxpayer money should be be used to fund sports arenas.

It’s something to keep an eye on as the Bucks’ arena plan progresses.