The Vikings stadium bill
Strange things can happen late in a legislative session. The 2003 abortion legislation, known as the "women's right to know' bill, was tacked onto a bill regulating circuses. The law requiring law enforcement officials to issue gun permits to people requesting them was added to a funding bill for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. And the legislation creating funding for the Minnesota Twins' stadium came late in a session, when lawmakers ganged up on their colleagues from Hennepin County.
Today, a Vikings stadium bill was born, with just a few weeks left in the 2010 session of the Minnesota Legislature.
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Proponents are citing the relatively low cost of interest rates and construction costs, saying waiting would cost $50 million.
Rep. Loren Solberg called the Vikings a "state legacy" and said they're an asset to the state. Solberg, who is chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said one Vikings playoff game -- the one with Dallas -- indirectly contributed $9 million to the economy.
But at the same time, Solberg said that only "people who benefit from the stadium," should pay for it. Theoretically, that would be everyone if the Vikings are a major contributor to the Minnesota economy.
Sen. Tom Bakk, who voted against the Twins stadium bill in 2006, said it's appropriate to bring a Vikings bill forward because other major bills have passed out of their committees. True, but the Senate's health and human services bill cut $114 million in health care cuts.
"This is the year to do it," Bakk said. "When you look at the unemployment we have in this state, someone has to do something to put Minnesotans back to work."
Sen. Julie Rosen, a Republican, pointed to Target Field and the Xcel Center in St. Paul. "Once the facilities are built, there's job creation and a lot of excitement. Rosen was a supporter of the Twin stadium bill, which she pointed out today, was passed at 4 in the morning.
"Imagine Minnesota without the Vikings," she said.
Rep. Morrie Lanning, a Republican from Moorhead, said the key to the Vikings bill is not having it paid for with general revenue money. But he noted there's still not a local community that's stepped forward to host the Vikings, and contribute the money that will be required. He said the state will lose $20 million in taxes if the Vikings leave when their lease at the Metrodome is up at the end of next season.
"Our ability to market the destination will be enhanced by a multi-purpose stadium," said Melvin Tennant, the CEO of Meet Minneapolis, the tourism agency in the city. "Many other events could be attracted if we have the stadium."
Tim O'Connor, the chair of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, suggested the Vikings need to stay in Minnesota to keep CEOs of companies wanting to live in the region.
ELEMENTS OF THE PLAN
* The stadium will cost $791 million.
* The Vikings contribute $32 million to pay off debt for 40 years. The team's total contribution is $264 million.
* There will be taxes on hotels, sports jerseys and memorabilia, and car rentals.
* A lottery game would be created.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q: If not Minneapolis, where?
A: "No decisions have been made," Solberg said. There are two proposals; one is site-specific and one is not. "Any of the 'fees' would not be imposed by the Legislature, but by someone else."
Q: The governor will not sign bills with new taxes. Why propose them?
A: Bakk: "What I like about it is taxing sports memorabilia. They're taxed at the wholesale level. The governor was opposed to taxes at the regional level."
Q: The governor would be opposed to car rental taxes.
A: Bakk: "I haven't had a meeting with the governor on this subject."
Q: Should the Vikings be contributing more?
A: Solberg: "They should pay for it themselves. That's not going to be happening. This is a facility that's used by more than just the Vikings."
Q: Do you have the votes to pass this?
A: Solberg: "It'll go through the committee process. The budget had to be done first. And we're there. The other part of the timeline as it goes through committee, those who benefit will be a funding source. People will judge and vote their conscience on that. "
Q: Have you talked to leaders of the Legislature?
A: Bakk:" I had a brief conversation with Sen. Pogemiller on this weeks ago." ( Bob notes: How do you propose a bill like this and not talk to the governor and legislative leaders?)"
Interesting to note that officials with the Minnesota Vikings were not part of today's news conference, but an official was meeting with reporters after the news conference.
Q: Is there a reason the only legislators here today are non-metro?
A: Lanning: "I understand the reluctance of local government officials in the metro area wanting to stand up and cheer. They have lots of pressures. We need to make it clear that unless there is some local government partner and partner with the state of Minnesota and the team, it's not going to happen. We're elected to solve problems. Minnesota has a problem, not just with the budget, but we're going to lose one of the major assets in the state."
Is Moorhead interested?
Q: Is a racino part of this?
A: "Thanks for coming everybody"