Republican legislative leaders say they're ready to take up the Vikings stadium bill Monday in the House, after saying Thursday their last-minute alternative failed to clear legal and financial hurdles.
The Vikings may finally get what they've been asking for — a vote on their new taxpayer-subsidized home from the Legislature. But Republican leaders warn they might not like the outcome.
"I don't know that there are the votes in the Republican caucus for the votes at this point," House Speaker Kurt Zellers said. "The Vikings have said that they believe there are, as well as the governor's office, or at least the minority leaders in both bodies."
The bill would build the team a new stadium, paid for by the state, the city of Minneapolis and the Vikings. The current plan has the state expanding charitable gambling with electronic pull tabs to pay its $400 million share of the nearly $1 billion project.
And in Zellers' clearest statement yet on the matter, the state's most prominent elected Republican said he won't be among the yes votes. He said the club should pay more for the stadium, Minneapolis residents should have a vote to waive relevant city charter language and tax payers shouldn't be responsible for cost overruns.
"This should be a good deal for the taxpayers," Zellers said. "I've said many times, I'm trying to stay out of being a political reason for people to vote for or against the bill."
The announcement capped four days of wrangling over whose plan was going to survive the two-year political battle over the Vikings' fate.
ALTERNATIVE PROPOSAL HAD LITTLE CHANCE
Republicans on Tuesday floated a plan to pay for the deal with general obligation bonds — essentially the state credit card. It was a reversal of their long-standing aversion to putting tax dollars into the deal.
But it quickly ran aground.
Financial experts with the Department of Management and Budget said the bonds had to be paid back in 20 years, not over the 30-year expected life of the stadium, which would change the payment schedule.
There is also a bar to helping a private entity like the Vikings, and legal experts said that would limit the team to a 15-year lease, to distance the Vikings from the bonds and prevent a court challenge.
That alone doomed the bond plan, said state Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter. He is a co-sponsor of the long-standing stadium plan linked to gambling expansion.
"I don't think we should bet the state's money on the idea that the Vikings will double the lease," Morrow said. "We should have a plan that is firm, consistent and people can vote for it on the front end and not hope for a good outcome in 15 years."
Republicans also pledged to borrow only $250 million for the project, leaving it as much as $150 million short of a roof — which they conceded was a must-have.
A draft of the GOP plan obtained by MPR News shows Republicans may have been counting on the Vikings to pay more. Labeled "Plan B," the document showed the team contribution rising to $525 million, a number the Vikings had ruled out.
"We will not be bringing that forward," said House Majority Leader Matt Dean. He conceded defeat, citing the Minnesota Management and Budget office objections.
"We do not want to move something forward that is not going to stand the test of scrutiny with MMB," Dean said.
That cleared the way for the existing plan to head for a vote in the House.
Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement he was pleased the stadium plan was finally getting an up or down vote.
Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said the team, too, was pleased.
"We are where we wanted to be. Let's get it on the floor; let's have a vote," Bagley said.
Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem said his chamber would take up the stadium bill if and when the House passes it.