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Peter Feigin

Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin speaks at an April 7 press conference announcing a new arena proposal. 

Spending on lobbying during this year’s state budget debate rose 9 percent over the last budget cycle, a new state report shows.

The Milwaukee Bucks spent the most of any organization during the first half of 2015 at $482,496, but lobbied significantly fewer hours — at 208 — than most of the other top spending organizations, according to a report released Friday by the state’s Government Accountability Board.

Lawmakers recently passed legislation that would use taxpayer money to partially finance a new stadium for the NBA basketball team.

Wisconsin Infrastructure Investment Now Inc. reported just two hours of lobbying, but spent $329,180 — the fourth-highest spending. Spokesman John Gard said the majority of that money was spent on radio ads opposing Right to Work legislation that the legislature passed earlier this year, and not in paying a lobbyist $164,590 an hour.

Overall, lobbyists spent $18.5 million during the first half of 2015, up from the $17.2 million spent in 2013 when the last budget was debated, according to the GAB.

That amount is below the $23.9 million spent in lobbying dollars during the 2011 budget period, however.

Legislation repealing the prevailing wage, making Wisconsin a Right-To-Work state and banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy were the top lobbied bills this year.

The report indicates while lobbying spending rose, the number of hours spent lobbying decreased from 124,857 hours in 2013 to 123,522 this year, according to the GAB. In 2011, 165,743 hours were spent lobbying.

The figures do not include lobbying during the legislature’s special session in July to pass the budget bill and to consider the Milwaukee Bucks arena funding or a 20-week abortion ban bill, according to the GAB.

The top spending organizations were:

  • Milwaukee Bucks, 208 hours, $482,496
  • Wisconsin Hospital Association Inc., 2,755 hours, $378,816
  • Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, 2,765 hours, $348,733
  • Wisconsin Infrastructure Investment Now Inc., 2 hours, $329,180
  • Wisconsin Property Taxpayers Inc., 2,909 hours, $283,339
  • Americans for Prosperity, 565 hours, $268,715
  • Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, 1,188 hours, $232,892
  • Wisconsin Counties Association, 2,366 hours, $192,108
  • Wisconsin Realtors Association, 1,563 hours, $182,674
  • AT&T Wisconsin, 578 hours, $180,839

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Molly Beck covers politics and state government for the Wisconsin State Journal.