Gov. Mark Dayton's meeting with Minnesota Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf Thursday evening has left some lawmakers questioning the governor's priorities.
Dayton said he's optimistic that the state can reach a deal on a new stadium for the Vikings and met with the Wilf brothers to push for the team to stay in Minnesota.
The discussion comes when Dayton is trying to work out a state budget agreement with the Legislature.
DAYTON: "I JUST WANT THIS TO BE IN MINNESOTA"
Dayton said Mark and Zygi Wilf have narrowed down their choices for a new stadium site to two possible sites: Arden Hills and Minneapolis.
Dayton said the Vikings owners met with Ramsey County officials on Thursday to talk about building the stadium on the site of the former Army ammunition plant in Arden Hills. He also said the owners are also meeting with Minneapolis officials.
Dayton said he doesn't have a preference for either site, but wants the Vikings to choose one.
"I told them that I just want this to be in Minnesota," Dayton said. "It has to work for the state. It has to work for the team. It has to work for the local partner. So each three of those interests has to be satisfied that it's a good deal for them and the people they represent."
Dayton was careful to note that he didn't talk stadium specifics with the Wilfs.
While Dayton hopes that a Vikings stadium deal can get done before the Legislature adjourns on May 23, it's not clear that Republican legislative leaders have the same hopes.
The Vikings stadium has been an attention grabber at the Capitol, but the proposed legislation hasn't made any headway in the traditional committee process. Instead, Vikings lobbyists have been working behind the scenes to try to find a local partner and reach an agreement with legislative leaders and the governor.
GOP: FOCUS SHOULD BE ON STATE BUDGET
Dayton has said he's willing to sign a stadium bill into law even if it's before he reaches a deal with GOP legislative leaders on erasing the state's $5 billion budget deficit.
Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said he thinks the priority should be on the budget.
"I think we do wish the governor would spend as much time on the budget as he apparently is on professional football," Michel said.
GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said she has no plans to work on a stadium bill until there's a budget agreement. That could be a long way off considering Dayton and GOP legislative leaders are at an impasse and can't even agree on how to start negotiating.