Frustrated with the lack of progress on a proposed Minnesota Vikings stadium, Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday called on Republican legislators embrace the stadium plan and the jobs it could create.
With the economy still struggling, Dayton said the construction and operation of a new Vikings stadium, in Arden Hills, Minn., or downtown Minneapolis, would result in thousands of private sector jobs.
Dayton said he's mystified by some legislators who don't seem to see that connection. He also wonders why Republican leaders appear to be dragging their feet.
"I've been told that some legislators would prefer to avoid having to vote until after the November 2012 election," Dayton said. "So, to them their one job is more important than providing several thousand jobs to Minnesotans who are currently sitting on the bench and want to work and are being denied that opportunity because the Legislature won't deal with this."
Dayton had originally planned to unveil his stadium proposal this week. But he scratched that timetable last week when Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers said he opposed taking up the stadium issue during a special session.
Dayton is still on the fence about where to build the stadium, but he said his preference for financing the state's share of the project is an expansion of electronic pull-tab gambling. He also said he likes a memorabilia tax and would consider a ticket tax.
Dayton said a proposal to use state Legacy funds that voters dedicated to the arts, outdoor activities and the environment for the stadium is a bad idea.
"I would just urge everybody to put the focus back on what they can be for," the governor said. "Some people, all they know is 'no' -- no to this, no to that, no to everything. That's not constructive leadership. What are you for? What are you willing to support?"
Dayton is calling on GOP leaders to commit to a timetable for taking up stadium legislation. He says he still prefers a special session, but would agree to wait until the regular session starts Jan. 24, if there's a firm deadline early in the session for action.
Neither Zellers nor Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch responded to Dayton's latest comments. But state Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, said she thinks it's up to Dayton to put forward the initial stadium plan. Holberg, chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee, also said she's not in a rush to take a vote.
"It makes no sense to talk about a special session until you have bills written on a piece of paper that you can evaluate," Holberg said. "Fiscal notes are complicated, we all know that. We need to know if the assumptions that are being made will actually play out. Will the money be there? So, to talk about a special session when you don't even have a bill to look at seems very premature."
Holberg was at a Chamber of Commerce lunch in Lakeville, where the Vikings Vice President of Public Affairs and Stadium Development Lester Bagley appeared to provide a stadium status report. Bagley, who was joined by players Michael Jenkins and Brian Robison, said he too has grown frustrated with the lack of progress in the past week.
"That's the thing about a calling off a special session, whether we were going to have a special session or not," Bagley said. "Once you eliminated the deadline, then the momentum stopped. We had momentum toward a deal. We had people with sleeves rolled up, things moving forward. So, we've got to get this done. Our lease is up at the end of the season, and we've got to get it done."
Bagley firmly disagrees with the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission's recent assertion that the collapse of the Metrodome roof last year triggered a clause that extended the lease by one year.
Dayton said a potential legal fight with the Vikings over that clause would only come into play if the Legislature ducks the stadium issue.