Economy Ethics

The Poor Will Pay for Scott Walker’s Glorious New Stadium With Fees, Court Fines

Those who don't have the means to pay their court fees and traffic tickets (or go to a basketball game) will be asked to cover part of the public cost of the new Milwaukee Bucks basketball stadium that's being pushed by Governor Scott Walker.

This is egregious and disgusting.

Madison— Milwaukee County residents behind on their property taxes or court fines would be charged an additional 15% under a proposal to use public money to pay for half the cost of a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. [...]

Under the deal, the state would tack 15% onto each person or entity's bill, as it does any time it takes over collecting debt for local governments. The surcharge is meant to cover the state's costs for collecting the money.

That means if someone owed the county $1,000, they would now have to pay $1,150. The fee would be added for those who have not paid their property taxes, traffic tickets and other fees.

If it's any consolation to those who will pay for the new stadium, they'll never be able to afford to actually go to a basketball game.

Wait, what?

If we're going to condemn small towns for using court fines and fees levied against the poor to pay for government services, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Milwaukee deserve a heaping pile of criticism for elevating the concept to a whole new echelon of highway robbery.

Those who cannot afford to pay their court fines and fees, and those who fall behind on their taxes, will not be able to afford the cost of visiting and enjoying the new stadium, but they will be asked to pay for it nonetheless. And a professional sports stadium is not a government service or public institution.

These fees will be collected by the Walker administration and then transferred to the private, wealthy purveyors of the Milwaukee Bucks and the stadium project.

This Dickensian scheme to steal from the poor and give to the rich joins the already morally bankrupt plan to cut the public University of Wisconsin system by over $250 million while spending and equal amount of $250 million on the stadium.

It gets worse.

Unlike the county, the state has the power to garnish wages and intercept other income, and thus should be able to collect more of the debt. [...]

Milwaukee County officials said Wednesday they were aware of the 15% surcharge when they decided to use the state debt collection program as part of the means for funding the arena.

"I think most taxpayers would agree the burden should not fall on the people who are paying taxes" by spending tax dollars on collection costs or cutting services in response to those costs, [Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele] told reporters.

Just in case it wasn't clear -- this surcharge serves a dual purpose of punishing the poor for being poor while reducing the burden of the public's share of the cost on other, more well-off residents.

Through the state debt collection program, those people will end up paying for this stadium twice.


Under Scott Walker, Wisconsin more closely resembles a mashup of Christie's New Jersey and Brownback's Kansas with a side of Jindal's Louisiana.