Throwing Your Vote in Racine County Pays – The Curious Case of Former State Sen. George Petak , R-Racine


Everybody in Racine is familiar with former state Sen. George Petak , R-Racine who threw his vote to legally bind Racine County Residents to pay a never ending sales tax to fund Milwaukee County Millionaire Baseball Owners and Players; then claimed to have left Wisconsin to go to Tennessee so he could dedicate his life to helping orphans and children in foster; except to magically re-appear in Madison Wisconsin, be appointed to high level cushy State jobs at WI DFI (Department of Financial Institutions) and WHEDA (WISCONSIN HOUSING AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY), get back credits for a taxpayer funded overly generous WI Taxpayer funded State Pension and live the hedonistic lifestyle he always dreamed about; as an unelected State employee at taxpayers expense, of course.

From Ballotpedia:

George Petak, a Republican member of the Wisconsin State Senate, was recalled from office in 1996. He had served since January 1991.

Petak’s recall resulted in the Wisconsin State Senate switching from a chamber with a majority of Republicans to a chamber with a majority of Democrats.

Those who sought Petak’s recall were angry because he switched his vote from “no” to “yes” on a tax plan to build a new stadium for the Milwaukee Brewers that levied a 1/10th of one cent sales tax. In June 1996, nine months after the vote, he was recalled from office.

Elizabeth Erven led the effort to collect the 11,577 signatures necessary to schedule the election. She stated, “He probably could have gone on to be a lieutenant governor, but the mistake was egregious. And you know, we may not be rich down here, we may not have a lot of great opportunities to excel at a lot of things, but the people who live here believe there are certain lines you just don’t cross. And that was one of them.”

Petak opened a consulting firm in the Madison, Wisconsin area in 2009.

From Wisconsin NPR:

Past Recall Elections: George Petak

In 1995, Sen. George Petak cast the deciding vote in favor of a package that added Racine County to counties taxed to pay for Miller Park. Less than a year later, he lost his job. Here and Now reporter Adam Schrager catches up with Petak to discover his thoughts on what happened then and how it relates to what’s happening now. Click on the link below to watch the video of former Senator George Petak discussing his vote.

A screenshot from the video:



On August 8, 2011, The Journal Times ran this story:

Recalled Sen. Petak’s advice to recall candidates: ‘Take nothing for granted’

RACINE – Sixteen years ago, former state Sen. George Petak, R-Racine, voted on one issue that lost him his job.

He voted yes, to allow Racine County to become a part of the Brewers stadium sales tax district in 1995. Enough local residents were outraged that he was recalled.

When Petak, 61, who now lives in Tennessee, voted for the Brewers stadium tax in 1995, he didn’t believe there was any other way to keep the team in Milwaukee.

He later moved to Madison, where he worked as a lobbyist and moved last year to Tennessee, where he is pursuing career options helping orphans and children in foster care.


George Petak moved to Tennessee to help orphans and children in foster care?  That certainly didn’t last long, because shortly afterwards he was back in Madison, WI – taking high ranking position at Wisconsin Department of Financial, Institutions and WHEDA. He’s not hiding it – but then again, what The JT reported seems very curious. George Petak is still on the taxpayers dime, waiting for his retirement check from the State of Wisconsin, courtesy of the taxpayers. Switching his vote was the best thing he ever did – for George Petak.

In 2015, the taxpayers paid him an Hourly rate  of  $49.35,  or Gross pay  of  $102,642.40. Amazingly enough, his start date was originally listed as  01/07/1991, with a Classification start date of 06/03/2013! It seems that he never left the State of Wisconsin and has maintained steady employment with the State – for retirement purposes, since 1991. Of course, the salary doesn’t include the tax-free fringe, which is likely in the $30,000 + range. After changing his vote, thereby  placing another tax on Racine County  Residents for the benefit of Major League Baseball Players and Bud Selig, George didn’t simply shuffle off ashamed to Tennessee so he could salve his conscience and  work with orphans and children in foster care. Nope. He got a nice cushy job with the State, and continues to work towards his State Taxpayer funded retirement with  WHEDA.  Both Democrats and Republicans in Wisconsin play this game, Except this one seems especially egregious.

From the database provided by Wisconsin State Journal:

Elizabeth Erven led the effort to collect the 11,577 signatures necessary to schedule the election. She stated, “He probably could have gone on to be a lieutenant governor, but the mistake was egregious. And you know, we may not be rich down here, we may not have a lot of great opportunities to excel at a lot of things, but the people who live here believe there are certain lines you just don’t cross. And that was one of them.”

While the above statement from Elizabeth Erven might be true – remember that Lieutenant Governor is an elected position, subject to the Voters. In his position at WIDFI, George Petak is now impervious to the Voters. And besides – Lieutenant Governor pays lousy,  only paying a paltry Hourly rate  of  $37.26, or Gross pay  of  $77,410.52, George Petak made $25,231.88 more than Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.


While former State Senator Cathy Stepp has done very well in her appointed position at the DNR. Even more curious is that while Cathy Stepp served in the State Senate from 2003 – 2007 and was appointed by Governor Scott Walker to her post in 2011 –  her start date is 01/03/2011 and she didn’t receive any credit for being a “State Employee” during her time as an elected official. How then is George Petak’s start date retroactive to 01/07/1991 – which would imply continuous employment?

While State records indicate that George Petak has been a State of Wisconsin employee since 01/07/1991, Wikipedia says:

George Petak (November 6, 1949) is a Republican Wisconsin politician. Born in Warren, Ohio, Petak graduated from Kent State University. He moved to Racine, Wisconsin, where he was a quality control manager. Petak was elected to the Racine School Board. In 1990, he was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate. In 1995, Petak, changed his vote on a controversial funding bill for the Miller Park stadium. He’d initially promised to vote against the bill, but changed his mind after being persuaded the Brewers would move out of town without a new park. Petak’s deciding vote supported a 0.1 percent sales tax increase.Nine months later, Petak lost a recall election to State Assemblywoman Kimberly Plache. This resulted in Petak becoming the first Wisconsin legislator to be successfully recalled from office. In 2009, Petak opened a consulting business in Madison, Wisconsin.

Of course, George also deserves his own statue at Miller Park.

Don’t forget George Petak

That Bud Selig is being honored with a statue at Miller Park is well deserved. There is a lesser known individual, however, who is equally responsible for major league baseball remaining in Milwaukee: George Petak. Mr. Petak is the former state senator who switched his vote in 1996 to support public financing of Miller Park, despite the fact that it cost him his Senate seat. He did it, because he recognized that building the stadium was in the best economic interest of the region and that was more important than his political career. But for George Petak there would be no Miller Park and but for Miller Park there would be no Milwaukee Brewers. Maybe we need a fourth statue at the stadium.

George Petak will never be forgotten by Wisconsin Taxpayers because they will be paying him for the rest of his life. No statue necessary. Imagine working 2 full time jobs – As both a State Legislator in Madison and as a Quality Control Manager in Racine.  More of the Voo-doo magic coming out of Madison, WI. How is this legal? It’s probably too complicated to explain – so just accept it folks.

From The Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel:

Recall politics is old hat in Racine, where no incumbent is safe

Racine – If there’s a battleground within the battleground in Wisconsin’s recall wars, this is it – a political no man’s land where the two parties have spent a quarter-century trading control of the same tenuous turf.

This is the only state Senate district in America whose voters have forced two recall elections.

It’s a district unique in Wisconsin for its volatility and thirst for change. It has changed partisan hands five times in 22 years. It has re-elected its state senators only twice since 1990, and booted them four times, a tally that could rise to five on June 5.

It comes 16 years after the voters of the Senate’s 21st District sent Racine Republican George Petak packing over his vote on a ballpark stadium tax, the first time a member of the Wisconsin Legislature had ever been removed by recall.

The Petak recall flipped the Wisconsin Senate. It cost the GOP unified control of state government, just as this race could. Some think it accelerated several trends in Wisconsin that are widely decried today on both sides: acid partisanship, perpetual electioneering, politics by any means.

“There is nothing more devastating or divisive than a recall election, for state government in general, but also for a community,” Petak told Wisconsin Public Television last year.

From Barb Caffrey’s Blog:

Folks, I live in Racine, Wisconsin, so I know full well what happened on June 4, 1996.  But for the rest of you, here’s a quick primer.

In October of 1995, George Petak (R-Racine), Wisconsin state Senator from district 21, cast the decisive vote in order to fund the construction of Miller Park in Milwaukee (and keep the Milwaukee Brewers in Wisconsin) by allowing a five county “sales tax” of .01% to go into effect.   (In case you’re wondering, the other four counties being taxed on behalf of the Brewers are Ozaukee, Milwaukee, Waukesha and Washington; the sales tax is expected to end sometime between 2015 and 2018.)

Now, Petak had said until the very last minute that he’d vote “no” on this.  But then-Governor Tommy Thompson twisted his arm, Petak voted “yes,” and many in Racine County (including Brewers fans) were incensed because Petak hadn’t done what he said he was going to do.  (In fact, the Racine Journal-Times’ headline the day after the vote was something like “Petak votes no,” giving us our very own “Dewey beats Truman” moment.)

This palpable anger over Petak’s “bait-and-switch” tactics was the main reason he was recalled, and the palpable anger over Scott Walker’s “bait-and-switch” tactics with regards to the state budget and most especially the fight over collective bargaining for public employee unions is the main reason why the six Republican state Senators have been forced to run in recall elections.

Experts, including political scientists, said in late 1995-early 1996 that Petak would never be recalled, because the two previous recall elections in WI history had retained the incumbents, but they were wrong.   While experts, once again including political scientists, didn’t think that nine Senators (six Rs, 3 Ds) would end up having to defend their seats in recall elections — but again, they were wrong.

The reasons why Petak’s decision was controversial were:

1) Racine County had no county sales tax mechanism at the time whatsoever, and getting the mechanism in place in the short run cost more than any collecting of tax.

2) Racine County, while next to Milwaukee County, doesn’t get a lot of business visitors or tourist business from there, so any economic “help” coming from this would be negligible.

3) As previously stated, Petak had said he was opposed until the 11th hour, then switched his vote.  This turned the anger over the idea of a county-wide sales tax into white-hot rage and led to Petak’s recall

4) And last but certainly not least, as the Wisconsin state Senate was comprised of 17 Rs and 16 Ds at the time Petak cast his vote, you can see why the big money came out in order to change the composition of the state Senate.  Not to mention all the requisite highly-negative ads.  (Why do they run those ads, anyway?  They only rarely change an informed voter’s mind, and trust me — in Wisconsin, we are informed about these issues or we don’t bother voting.)

Petak, who was primaried by another Republican but fended him off, eventually lost to Democrat Kim Plache and was the first government official to be recalled in Wisconsin history.

It’s all curious – very curious indeed. 



Will the Miller Stadium Tax ever end? As promised? UNLIKELY! It will be constantly extended, while  more new spending on additional items will continue, and any Legislation to end the tax will be declared unconstitutional!

From CBS 58:

Lawmakers call to end Miller Park sales tax

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) — Some Milwaukee residents say twenty years should be long enough to pay for Miller Park.

“I don’t understand why the sales tax is still going, and why they need to extend it further. It seems as if the consumer has paid enough for the stadium,” Ann Fasbender said.

Every year since 1996, five Milwaukee-area counties have paid an extra .1 percent sales tax, or ten cents for ever $100 spent, to support Miller Park. Last year, the tax netted more than $30 million for the Brewers.

Wisconsin Senator Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, introduced a bill to end the tax in 2019 for good. He says he loves the Brewers as much as anyone…  When he voted for the tax in 1996, was that it would end in 2014. He says the recession changed the timetable, and it was extended to 2019.

The Miller Park District sent this statement when asked about the bill:

“The Miller Park District Board of Directors has always been committed to retiring the 0.1% Miller Park sales tax as quickly as possible. Senator Carpenter’s bill appears to be consistent with the sentiment of the Miller Park District Board, and while well-intentioned, the bill as introduced might actually prove to be unconstitutional.

In essence, 2017 Senate Bill 443 is very similar to previously proposed legislation regarding the Miller Park District and the related 0.1% sales tax. The previously proposed legislation was found to be unconstitutional in that it violated the existing terms and conditions of bond contracts, bond insurance and other legal agreements. Because the District feels 2017 Senate Bill 443 may also be found to be unconstitutional, it would not be appropriate or necessary for the District to comment further before the proposed legislation is properly vetted by state agencies and state legal counsel.”

“There’s a reason for this, there’s a reason education sucks, and it’s the same reason it will never ever ever be fixed. It’s never going to get any better. Don’t look for it. Be happy with what you’ve got… because the owners of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now… the real owners. The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls. They got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying. Lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests. That’s right.” ~

“They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around a kitchen table and think about how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fuckin’ years ago. They don’t want that. You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And now they’re coming for your Social Security money. They want your fuckin’ retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all from you sooner or later ’cause they own this fuckin’ place. It’s a big club and you ain’t in it. You and I are not in the big club. …The table is tilted, folks. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice. …And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. That’s what the owners count on. The fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white and blue dick that’s being jammed up their assholes every day, because the owners of this country know the truth. It’s called the American Dream, ’cause you have to be asleep to believe it.” ~

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