Dayton on stadium: 'No breakthrough moment'

Zellers, Dayton, Koch
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, Gov. Mark Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch spoke after a nearly two-and-a-half-hour meeting on the Vikings stadium at the State Capitol on Friday, Oct. 28, 2011.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

No stadium deal emerged from a two-and-a-half hour meeting Friday between Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP legislative leaders.

But they say they'll continue to meet and discuss the prospects for passing a bill next month in order to finance a new home for the Minnesota Vikings.

The governor, Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers and GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said little about the details of the meeting. Those looking for signs of cooperation might be encouraged that the three participants spoke much longer than the scheduled hour talk, and addressed reporters together afterward. Dayton said the discussion touched on a variety of financing options but declined to be specific, nor did he say whether the stadium should be built in Minneapolis of Arden Hills.

"There's no breakthrough moment here to discuss because we haven't reached that point but we definitely refined the realm of possibilities and determined what it is we need to know before we make those decisions," Dayton said.

The list of details to discuss is long. Aside from locating the stadium, Dayton and lawmakers are considering whether the final package should include an expansion of gambling, a ticket tax, a local sales tax increase or the use of funds from the state's Legacy Amendment.

Dayton wants to meet again next week to continue discussions with legislative leaders. He said he will release his stadium plan the week of Nov. 7 and wants to call a special session for the week of Nov 21. Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said it's the governor's call whether a special session should be convened.

"I wouldn't say that we're ready for that at this point," Koch said. "But that's the governor's call and we're going to continue discussions and keep working."

Zellers was also tight-lipped about the meeting's details, saying the stadium discussions are a complicated process that requires a creative solution. Neither Dayton nor Zellers would indicate whether they intend to tap the Legacy Fund to pay for the stadium. Koch said she's willing to look at using a portion of the fund that collects three-eighths of a percent sales tax dedicated to the outdoors, arts and culture, parks and trails and clean water. Voters approved the sales tax hike in 2008. Several Republicans have floated the idea as a possible solution, but critics said that they will sue to stop any use of the fund to pay for the stadium. Zellers, who insisted he was neutral on the measure, said it's important to note that supporters of using Legacy dollars only want to tap money from the arts and cultural heritage portion, and not the outdoors parts of the fund.

"It's cultural heritage money and I think it's a very big distinction to make on behalf of the caster and blasters. That's different money than the culture and heritage significant chunk of dollars."

Zellers later acknowledged that the dedicated sales tax is directed for four portions of the Legacy Fund.

Vikings lobbyist Lester Bagley was not at the meeting but said he is pleased that Dayton and lawmakers appeared cooperative in their remarks to the press. He hopes Dayton and legislative leaders can reach a deal that will be acceptable to a majority of legislators.

"It's about truly finding the fit for Minnesota in this state and in this political climate and fashioning it that way," Bagley said. "It's not easy and we're not there yet but I think we're on our way."

The Vikings continue to back a plan that builds the stadium in Arden Hills, and would require a half-cent sales tax increase in Ramsey County to pay for a portion of the stadium. When Dayton releases his plan in two weeks, his preference could be to build the stadium in downtown Minneapolis &mdash a potential problem for the Vikings. If that's the case, Vikings ownership will have to decide whether it's more important to build the stadium in Ramsey County or agree with the governor — who has been the biggest supporter to reaching a stadium deal.

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