The city of Minneapolis is offering to pay $195 million in taxpayer money to help build a new stadium for the Vikings downtown. The plan includes a combination of new and expanded taxes, as well as a property tax decrease.
Under a new proposal from Mayor R.T. Rybak and Council Member Barb Johnson, the current downtown food and liquor tax zone will be expanded and could include restaurants like Kings wine bar in south Minneapolis, where you can get a glass of a semi-fruity Spanish grenache to wash down an order of house-made tater tots served with Gruyere and bacon sauce.
The restaurant is located near the corner of 46th St. and Grand Ave., about five miles south of the Metrodome. So it is outside the zone. If the stadium proposal is passed, you can add another 42 cents to the bill for that glass of grenache and plate of tots.
And that's fine with customer Todd Peterson.
"It would affect me," Peterson said. "I would have to pay that tax when I go out. But I don't care."
Peterson lives in Minneapolis, and he's a Vikings fan. He said it's possible that the Vikings will move out of state if they don't get a new stadium. But Peterson said if they're going to stay, they belong in the city.
"Yeah, I think they should be in downtown Minneapolis with light rail and all the restaurants that are here," he said. "It's great business. It's huge revenue for the city and state. If that was true, it might change my mind."
Customer Doug Toft is sitting on the other side of the restaurant and is on the other side the argument. Toft lives in Minneapolis and is not a football fan. He said he hasn't seen any evidence that sports stadiums bring big economic gains for cities and states. He thinks now is not a good time for the city to raise taxes for a stadium.
"My property taxes went up 17 percent last year," Toft said. "So I would prefer that we slow down and think and be very mindful. I'm recovering from sticker shock about that."
The plan offers some property tax relief. It would do so by taking $5 million a year that's dedicated to the Target Center and putting it back on the tax rolls. City officials say that's enough to lower the burden on an individual property taxpayer by a couple percentage points.
Dave Bicking isn't buying it.
"I'll believe that when I see it," said Bicking, a member of a group called No Vikings Tax. He said the combination of the expanded food and liquor tax and the half-cent increase in the city's sales tax will hurt residents and small businesses. The timing is particularly bad because many businesses are still struggling to recover from the recession, according to Bicking.
"There's never a good time to take from the people as a whole against their will and give it to wealthy stadium owners for private purposes. So the timing is always bad."
With two weeks left in the legislative session, Bicking said his group will step up their efforts against the plan to use taxpayer dollars for the Vikings stadium.