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WHAT TO SAY WHEN YOU CALL – A PRIMER
Here is our FAQ on where things stand right now
Q: Why am I making all these phone calls?
A: Because right now legislators in Madison are debating whether or not to include the arena funding proposal in the State budget. They are talking about it while you are reading this piece. That is why calls now are critical. Don’t wait to make the calls.
Q: Can’t I just email my State Assembly representative and my State Senator?
A: You can, but legislative staffers tell us that calls carry far more weight than emails. Think of all the spam you delete everyday from your inbox versus someone calling you on the phone.
Q: Are they voting on it yet?
A: No. The arena funding provision has not yet been voted on for inclusion into the State budget.
Q: So when will we know if the Legislature will include the arena funding provision in the budget?
A: We could know anytime this afternoon or in a few days or next week. The legislators will only announce the arena funding package will come up for budget consideration when they have the votes to pass it. They don’t have the votes just yet. Too many legislators are on the sidelines at the moment.
Q: Who votes to include the arena funding provision in the budget?
A: It is a combined committee of Senators and Assembly Representatives known as the Joint Finance Committee (“JFC”) 16 members total. They vote on what goes in or out of the budget. But those 16 usually aren’t allowed to consider the proposal until the legislative leadership, in this case the GOP, believe they have the votes to pass the full budget. So even if your representative isn’t a member of the JFC, it is just as important you contact them now.
Q: What if the arena funding provision doesn’t get included in the budget?
A: The provision then faces an uncertain future. It would need to be taken up by the entire legislature separately either after the budget is passed or later in the year. Bucks fans do not want this outcome because it may delay construction of a new arena and will cause a great deal of political fighting. Having the measure in the State budget is far preferable.
Q: Is there any time limit by when a budget must be passed by the Legislature?
A: The State operates on a fiscal year that begins on July 1st. The current budget would fund the State operations for the 2015-2017 period. Ideally the budget is passed by the Legislature and signed into law anytime before June 30th.
Q: What if they do not make the June 30th deadline?
A: Sometimes disputes cause the budget approval process to roll past July 1st and into the new fiscal year. It can happen, but more likely the budget and the arena are decided in the next week or two.
Q: I contacted my representatives who are both Democrats. They told me that they can’t vote for the State budget under any circumstances because it contains too many provisions they don’t like, even if they do like the arena provision.
A: That is an acceptable answer. However, you still need to call and encourage your Democratic representatives to support inclusion of the arena funding in the budget. If the arena provision is out, chances of approval lessen. Further, then your Democratic representative will need to vote separately on the proposal. If they feel under pressure now to include it in the budget, imagine the pressure if they must take a separate vote on the arena.
Q: My representative says the arena issue is so important it should be a separate vote and not in the budget. Are they right?
A: We can’t answer that question other than to say the arena funding proposal calls for approximately $4 million per year in State funding for debt service on bonds issued by the State for the project. This represents only .001% of the proposed $35 billion dollar state budget. It isn’t a large amount and that $4 million is more than offset by the current jock tax revenues the State receives from NBA players. So the measure does pay for itself.
The real question you need to ask your legislator is if they really want to drag this out into the summer with a separate vote and put the entire State through a gut-wrenching debate, while they are subjected to more lobbying on the issue. A group of bipartisan elected representatives including Governor Scott Walker, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele have spent months negotiating a good deal that doesn’t raise taxes but funds the arena. This makes sense to be in the State budget.
Q: If this is included in the budget and the budget passes, are their any other approvals needed?
A: The City and County must each approve their respective portions of the plan, but their decisions are rendered moot if we don’t get this done at the State level first.
Your calls matter. The people of Seattle are watching our decision. Please make the calls and have your friends make them as well.