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Dayton, Capitol leaders say no to stadium sales tax hike

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Gov. Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton at a news conference on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011 said a local tax increase is effectively off the table in the stadium finance debate.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

A Minnesota Vikings official says Arden Hills remains a viable site for a new stadium, even though state officials have now eliminated a Ramsey County sales tax increase as part of a financing package.

Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican Legislative leaders said Tuesday that there was not enough support for the local tax, and they will now discuss other financing options. During an afternoon news conference, Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said the team will regroup with county officials. But Bagley said the process is still moving ahead.

"Arden Hills site has not been eliminated. The sales tax option has been eliminated. So, there are other options that are being considered by state leaders, and we'll continue to work on those and try to move the project forward as best we can, as quickly as we can."

Bagley listed several potential financing options, including state bonding, pull tabs, casino gambling, lottery games and a merchandise tax.

Dayton would not say if the state would have to pay more to offset the loss of the local share, but he suggested supporters are running out of other options.

"The project hasn't gotten any less expensive but I haven't gotten into those deliberations and it would be premature to speculate," Dayton said.

King Wilson and pull tab machine
King Wilson, the executive director of Allied Charities of Minnesota, shows an electronic pull tab machine at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

Dayton said there was not enough support in the Legislature to exempt the proposed project from a local referendum. GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said she agrees with Dayton's conclusions.

"My personal preference there would be to have the referendum, and I think that's just how many members feel," Koch said. "They think it's important ... that the people have a chance to vote on that."

Dayton said allowing bars to have electronic pull tabs seems to have the most support among lawmakers as a stadium financing mechanism.

Ramsey County was proposing a countywide half-cent sales tax increase to pay for part of the stadium. The Vikings say the Arden Hills site — not Minneapolis — is their preferred location for the stadium.