Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker defended his plan to invest $250 million in taxpayer dollars in a new basketball arena as “fiscally responsible” in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” this Sunday.
“You're talking about being a fiscally responsible person, I am. That's precisely why I did this,” he said.
The owners of the Milwaukee Bucks had threatened to take the team to another state if they didn’t have a new stadium by 2017, and have offered to finance half of the $500 million the arena will cost. Walker on Sunday said that the investment of $250 million in public funds was a good long-term bet, as it would protect the millions of dollars in income taxes the state collects from NBA players and staff that play and live there.
“For the state of Wisconsin, it's less than $4 million a year to protect $6.5 million we collect. And over the next 20 years, that grows to a total of just shy of $300 million the state collects in income taxes for less than $80 million,” he said. “I’d be a fool.”
But the plan has prompted bipartisan attacks, and even turned some conservatives against the Republican presidential candidate. The Koch brothers-backed group Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin, which helped defend Walker during his recall election, has slammed the plan, saying it’s “based on fuzzy math, complicated accounting and millions of taxpayer dollars.”
It’s also raised eyebrows because of ties the project’s investors have to Walker’s campaign. His national finance co-chairman, Jon Hammes, is an investor in the Bucks, and a company owned by Hammes' son contributed $150,000 to a super PAC backing Walker's campaign the day before Walker came out in support of the public financing plan.
Walker downplayed Hammes’ involvement, calling him a “tiny little investor” in the project, and insisted his support wasn't influenced by politics.
“If this was political, there's no way I'd be supporting the previous [Bucks'] owner, Herb Kohl, who put $100 million of his own money in to help build this, is one of the longest serving Democrats in the United States Senate,” he said. “This has nothing to do with politics.”