Gov. Mark Dayton says he expects to release his preferred plan for a new Vikings stadium by the second week of November.
After a round of meetings with legislators, Vikings owners, NFL officials, Ramsey County Commissioners and a potential casino developer, the governor said he's moving closer to ironing out a preferred plan.
The governor said he hopes to hold several more meetings next week with legislative leaders to discuss the best way to finance a stadium. He hopes to have a plan in place by the week of Nov. 7, and to be able to call a special session for late November to get a stadium financing plan passed into law.
"I would intend to have my own recommendation of what I think is the best site, best means of financing the stadium and proper operational control," Dayton said.
Dayton is still waiting to finalize certain details, such as whether the Vikings should pay for any cost overruns and a firm agreement that the team will remain committed to any eventual deal. Dayton spent most of a 20 minute news conference Wednesday discussing the strengths of the Ramsey County site, which relies on a half-cent countywide sales tax to pay for its portion of the stadium.
Dayton said he's still listening to suggestions for how to pay for the state's $300 million share of the billion dollar plus project. The governor repeated his warning that the Vikings could leave Minnesota when the team's Metrodome lease runs out in January.
As the governor makes his push, Republican legislative leaders in the Legislature mostly sit on the sidelines.
Republican legislative leaders don't seem to share Dayton's urgency on the stadium. GOP House Majority Leader Matt Dean said Dayton and the Vikings haven't made the case for why the issue must be addressed before the next regular legislative session in January.
"I would like to think that we can keep the Vikings here without a special session. I don't think the argument is 'Should we have a special session and if not, the Vikings will leave,' " Dean said. "That's the way it's being presented to the public, and I would like to think that we can have a different debate."
"I don't understand the mindset of 'No they won't move or can't move and this isn't a priority.' We've been saying that for 10 years and now their lease is up. What's the next excuse going to be," said Republican Rep. John Kriesel of Cottage Grove.
Kriesel believes the stadium debate has to be settled, and has been advocating for a new stadium.
"This is our time right now. We have nothing else to focus on. This isn't a budget session or anything like that. This is something that is very important to the state."
Other lawmakers said the stadium issue should wait until after Thanksgiving when state finance officials release the next revenue forecast. Minnesota's state economist expects the forecast to show another deficit.
"Why would you hold a special session to potentially spend money before a major report comes out that tells us we're at and potentially could change the landscape for us in state government," said Republican Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa.
Drazkowski said the governor and lawmakers should focus on the state's finances before they focus on the stadium. He's inclined to vote against any stadium plan that relies on tax increases.
Senate Republicans won't support any plan that relies on state general fund money to pay for the stadium, said Republican Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont. Rosen, who is authoring the Vikings stadium bill, said she hopes lawmakers will pass the legislation in a special session.
"I have not had a chance to talk to all of my colleagues but I think the sentiment is that 'OK, now we're put in this situation where we're going to have a special session. Let's get it done."
Rosen was careful to note that any stadium bill will need to have votes from Democrats and Republicans to pass. DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen said his caucus is split. He said even he's not sure how he will vote.
"I think the threat of the Vikings leaving is something that we need to take seriously, but I don't think we should overstate it," Thissen said. "And we need to make our decisions separate and apart from that threat about what's best for the state of Minnesota."
Thissen and the other legislative leaders are scheduled to meet with Dayton on Monday.
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