Libertarian Party of Wisconsin v. State, 95-3114-OA

Citation199 Wis.2d 790,546 N.W.2d 424
Decision Date09 April 1996
Docket NumberNo. 95-3114-OA,95-3114-OA
PartiesLIBERTARIAN PARTY OF WISCONSIN, Libertarian Party of Metropolitan Milwaukee, Fritz Beck, Robert Collison, Bryan Harwood, Richard Luedtke, Jeffrey H. Marker, Todd M. Mascaretti, Barbara Pokrandt, Cory Schultka and James Varley, Petitioners, v. STATE of Wisconsin, Tommy G. Thompson, Governor, James R. Klauser, Secretary of Administration, Mark D. Bugher, Secretary of Revenue, Fritz Ruf, Executive Director, Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, F. Thomas Ament, County Executive, County of Milwaukee, John O. Norquist, Mayor, City of Milwaukee, Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, A Special District Created Under Section 229.66, Stats., Robert Trunzo, Chairperson of the Board of that District, Steve Agostini, Lorraine Blaubach, Frank Busalacchi, Frederick Gierach, Elaine Kraut, Mickey Lehman, Craig Leipold, Karen Makoutz, Ulice Payne, Jr., Douglas Stansil, Members of the Board of that District and Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club, a Wisconsin Limited Partnership, Respondents.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin

ORIGINAL ACTION in this court commenced pursuant to leave granted.

For the petitioners there were briefs by Gaar W. Steiner, Douglas H. Bartley, Patricia S. Matusiak and Steiner & Schoenfeld, Milwaukee and oral argument by Douglas H. Bartley.

For the respondents there was a joint brief by F. Thomas Creeron, III, assistant attorney general and James E. Doyle, attorney general; James T. McClutchy, Jr., deputy corporation counsel and Robert G. Ott, corporation counsel; Patrick B. McDonnell, special deputy city attorney and Grant F. Langley, Milwaukee city attorney; Jon P. Axelrod, William E. McCardell, Joseph A. Ranney and DeWitt Ross & Stevens, S.C., Madison; and Thomas L. Shriner, Jr., Richard M. Esenberg and Foley & Lardner, Milwaukee and oral argument by F. Thomas Creeron, III and Jon P. Axelrod.


The Libertarian Party et al. (Libertarian Party) brings this declaratory judgment action to challenge the constitutionality of 1995 Wis.Act 56 (the Stadium Act) on state grounds. The Stadium Act provides for the formation of local baseball park districts and empowers those districts to build and maintain professional baseball park facilities. The Libertarian Party argues that the Stadium Act is unconstitutional for the following reasons: (1) the Stadium Act is a special or private tax law in violation of Wis. Const. art. IV, §§ 31 and 32; (2) the Stadium Act permits the contracting of state debt without a public purpose in violation of Wis. Const. art. VIII, §§ 4 and 7(2); (3) the Stadium Act violates the internal improvements clause of Wis. Const. art. VIII, § 10; (4) the Stadium Act violates the municipal debt limitation of Wis. Const. art. XI, § 3(3); and (5) the Stadium Act pledges state credit in violation of Wis. Const. art. VIII, § 3. We conclude the Stadium Act survives these constitutional challenges and accordingly, we deny the Libertarian Party's request for injunctive relief.

The facts are undisputed. 1995 Wisconsin Act 56 was enacted in a special legislative session after vigorous public debate. In passing the Stadium Act, the legislature determined that substantial statewide public purposes would be served by providing a mechanism for the formation of local baseball park districts in sufficiently populous areas of the state and empowering those districts to build and maintain professional baseball park facilities:

(1) The legislature determines that the provision of assistance by state agencies to a district under this subchapter, any appropriation of funds to a district under this subchapter and the moral obligation pledge under § 229.74(7) serve a statewide public purpose by assisting the development of a professional baseball park in the state for providing recreation, by encouraging economic development and tourism, by reducing unemployment and by bringing needed capital into the state for the benefit and welfare of people throughout the state.

1995 Wisconsin Act 56, § 51 (creating § 229.64). 1 The Stadium Act provides for the creation of local professional baseball park districts to include any county within the state with a population in excess of 500,000 and all counties that are contiguous to that county and not already included in a different district. § 51 (creating § 229.67). The governing board of a district is to consist of members appointed by the governor, the mayor of the most populous city within the district and the county executives of those counties located within the district. § 51 (creating § 229.66). A district is empowered to construct and operate professional baseball park facilities, although the initial construction costs of the facilities may not exceed $250 million. § 51 (creating § 229.68).

A district may issue revenue bonds for a portion of these costs (if a supermajority of the members of the board agree) and is empowered to impose a sales and use tax to repay the bonds. The tax is not to exceed 0.1 percent of covered transactions and may be imposed only within a district's boundaries. § 38 (creating § 77.705) and § 51 (creating § 229.68). The proceeds of this tax are to be deposited in a special fund to be used for operating expenses and retirement of the bonds. § 51 (creating § 229.685). A district has no other taxing power and bondholders may not look to its property, or any property within the district, as security or a source of repayment.

The state is not obligated on and does not guarantee the bonds, although under certain circumstances the state may provide a nonbinding "moral obligation" pledge. § 51 (creating §§ 229.74(7) and 229.75). The state may provide certain services to the district, some of which may be provided only for compensation and only if land has been granted to the state, and the state has entered into a lease agreement with the district. See § 4 (creating § 16.82(6)); § 6 (creating 16.854); § 7 (creating § 18.03(5s)); § 13 (creating 20.505(1)); § 46 (creating 77.76(1)); § 47 (creating 77.76(3m)). The legislation contains a specific disclaimer that a district is not authorized to create a debt of the state or a county in the district's jurisdiction. All bonds issued by a district are payable solely from the funds pledged for their payment as specified in the bond resolution authorizing the issuance. § 51 (creating § 229.75(2)). In addition, neither the state nor the counties in a district are liable for the payment of the principal or interest on the bonds or the performance of any pledge or obligation or agreement that may be undertaken by a district. Therefore, any such pledge, obligation or agreement undertaken by a district poses no pecuniary liability or charge upon the general credit or taxing power of the state or a county in the district. § 51 (creating § 229.75(2)).

Furthermore, the bonds issued by a district are secured only by the district's interest in the baseball park facilities, by income from the facilities, by proceeds from the bonds issued by the district and amounts placed in a special redemption fund, investment earnings, and by the sales and use taxes imposed by the district. § 51 (creating § 229.75(3)). The district is prohibited from pledging its full faith and credit on the bonds, and the legislature has declared that the bonds are not a liability of the district. § 51 (creating § 229.75(3)).

Following the enactment of this legislation, an entity known as the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball District (the District) 2 consisting of Milwaukee County and its four contiguous counties of Ozaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha, was formed. The governing board of the District has been appointed, and the District has entered into various agreements to construct a new stadium to be built on a site adjacent to the current Milwaukee County Stadium. Under these agreements, the District will own 64 percent of the new stadium facilities, and the Milwaukee Brewers, a professional baseball team franchise, will own the remaining 36 percent. The stadium will be built on land owned by the state and leased for a 99 year term to the District. In addition, the District will sublease the new stadium facilities to the Brewers for a 30 year period. This new 42,500 seat stadium, consistent with the authorizing legislation, will cost a maximum of $250 million.

Of that total cost, the District will provide $160 million. That money will come from, among other sources, sales and use tax revenues and other revenues raised by the District's issuance of tax exempt revenue bonds. Although the bonds have not yet been issued, the governing board of the District by resolution has authorized a 0.1 percent sales and use tax to be collected commencing on January 1, 1996, in the five counties comprising that District.

The remaining $90 million needed for the construction of the new stadium will come from the Brewers. The team has agreed to make a $90 million "equity contribution" to the project construction fund. In addition, the Brewers will pay an annual rent equal to 10 percent of the total annual debt service payable by the District on the District's tax exempt revenue bonds, an estimated $1.1 million per year for the 30 year term of the lease between the Brewers and the District.

On November 20, 1995, Governor Thompson et al. (Governor) petitioned this court for leave to commence an original action for declaratory judgment seeking a declaration that the Stadium Act is constitutional. Upon accepting original jurisdiction, and recognizing that the Libertarian Party had previously commenced an action in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, this court "inverted" or realigned the parties, directing that the Libertarian Party should be henceforth denominated Petitioners, and the Governor should be denominated as the Respondent in this original action. 3

The Libertarian Par...

To continue reading

Request your trial
59 cases
  • CLEAN v. State, s. 63842-0
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • 13 d1 Janeiro d1 1997
    ...purpose of legislation--to increase convention and sports activity in the St. Louis City-County area"); Libertarian Party v. State, 199 Wis.2d 790, 546 N.W.2d 424, 434 (1996) ("the fact that a private entity such as the [Milwaukee] Brewers will benefit from the Stadium Act does not destroy ......
  • Town of Beloit v. County of Rock, 00-1231.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • 4 d2 Março d2 2003
    ...legitimate and valid public purposes.2 ¶ 2. We affirm the court of appeals decision. In Libertarian Party of Wisconsin v. State, 199 Wis. 2d 790, 809, 546 N.W.2d 424 (1996), this court held that creating jobs and enhancing the tax base were legitimate and valid reasons, along with others, f......
  • City of Aurora v. Spectra Commc'ns Grp., LLC
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 24 d2 Dezembro d2 2019
    ...(2004) ; Gallant v. Cnty. Comm'n of Jefferson Cty. , 212 W.Va. 612, 575 S.E.2d 222, 230-31 (2002) ; Libertarian Party of Wisc. v. State , 199 Wis.2d 790, 546 N.W.2d 424, 431-33 (1996) ; Mountain Fuel Supply Co. v. Emerson , 578 P.2d 1351, 1356 (Wyo. 1978).9 See Jefferson Cty. Fire Protectio......
  • Wash. State Stadium Pfd v. Huber, Hunt, 81029-0.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • 5 d4 Março d4 2009
    ...v. Rockford Prof'l Baseball Club, 244 Ill.App.3d 643, 613 N.E.2d 321, 325-27, 184 Ill.Dec. 294 (1993); Libertarian Party v. State, 199 Wis.2d 790, 546 N.W.2d 424, 435-36 (1996); Kelly v. Marylanders for Sports Sanity, Inc., 310 Md. 437, 530 A.2d 245, 259-60 ¶ 27 In Packard, for example, the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT