(AP) A state Senate committee pushed a new Gopher stadium one step forward Wednesday, but removed several major provisions that are favored both by the House of Representatives and by the University of Minnesota.
Senators passed a stadium bill without a $35-million naming rights agreement that university struck with TCF Bank, without a $50-per-year student fee and without a land deal that would have the university turn over a 2,800-acre land parcel to the state in exchange for its financial contribution. All those provisions were in a bill the state House overwhelmingly passed earlier this month.
The Senate sponsor, Minneapolis Democrat Larry Pogemiller, said removing those parts of the bill would mean the state would have to raise $12.9 million a year more than required by the House plan, over the next 25 years. He said the Senate Tax Committee, which he chairs, will begin discussing options to raise that money; he said it would likely be a tax that in some way targets sports activities.
Pogemiller said his opposition to the naming rights, the student fee and the land swap are not "deal-breakers" and said all would still be on the table when the House and Senate negotiate the final package. But he said there were good reasons for removing all of them.
"I think what you name your public buildings is a statement of the values of your state," Pogemiller said. "I don't think as a state we should sell the names of any more public buildings."
But scrapping the naming rights would mean the state would have to come up with $1.4 million a year from other sources, or $35 million total in the next 25 years. Some senators said that's not the way to go.
"If you ask my average constituent, 'Should the state of Minnesota come up with an extra $35 million, or should we take the TCF money?' - I can tell you what the answer is going to be," said Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon.
Pogemiller said he removed the $50-a-year student fee in support of students who have had to bear rising tuition costs in the last few years. As for the land swap, Pogemiller and other senators said they still have questions about environmental contamination on parts of the land, and requested more information about whether the deal makes good financial sense for the state.
"We're not real estate appraisers," said Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul.
By coming up with some kind of sports-related tax, Pogemiller said, the Senate will be further along than the House, which passed its stadium bill without specifying a source for most of the $9.4 million a year that would be needed to pay off the stadium bonds.
Pogemiller's tax committee may take up the bill Thursday, and the full Senate is likely to vote on it next week, Pogemiller said. After that, negotiators from the House and Senate will meet to work out what are now significant differences between the two plans. Should it make it to the governor's desk, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said he supports a new Gophers stadium.
"I just hope to convince the House there's a better way to do it," Pogemiller said.