Senate committee green-lights stadium

The Minnesota Senate's Local Government committee passed the plan to build a new $975 million Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis tonight. (See vote below)

The vote came after a more than a month of controversy: the same committee tabled the stadium bill in March.

"It's been an up and down week. Touch and go," said Vikings vice president Lester Bagley. "We'll get busy and go after the bill in the Jobs committee in the Senate and at the same time try to shake it loose in the House. I would rather not get into guessing what happens next, but we're encouraged."

He did have one caveat -- a 10 percent suite tax put on in an amendment offered by Ken Kelash, DFL-Minneapolis.

"We're not supportive of that," Bagley said.

But Kelash won over the committee with a populist argument: "The poor sucker from some part out state, doing pull tabs that will never be able to afford a seat in this stadium, he's subsidizing the guy sitting in the box. And those guys are not only not paying any taxes to help pay for the bonding on this stadium, but they're also able to write off the receipts as part of their corporate expenses."

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The committee also stripped out a provision in the existing agreement with Minneapolis, the state and the Vikings that would allow the city of Minneapolis to use sales tax money to rehab Target Center.

Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, had proposed deleting the Target Center part of the deal. He said it gave Minneapolis an unfair advantage over St. Paul.

Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak said it won't work that way. "The only way we can pass this [at the City Council] is the package that we brought forward."

The Minneapolis city council has scheduled a hearing on the deal next Tuesday, and Target Center is the carrot that the state has offered to win over doubters on the council.

"This is a very critical part to Minneapolis' deal," bill author Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, told the committee.

A majority of Republicans in the committee actually voted against the measure. They were led by Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, who said the state was giving too good a deal to the Vikings.

He offered a competing bill that would give the Vikings only a loan for the stadium.

"They have the financial wherewithal," Chamberlain said of the Vikings. "They're smart enough. We can come up with a deal that is more equitable for this market. We're not asking them to pay for everything. We're asking them to include the business community, which has $430 billion in gross revenue. And we're asking for the fans to pay a little bit. So we want a deal done. We just want something other than the first offer."

Rosen said the bill will go to the Rules committee on Monday, and the Jobs committee Monday night. It's likely to have to pass the Taxes and Finance committees as well before it can make it to the Senate floor.

The roll call:

YES

GOP

Carla Nelson

John Pederson

Claire Robling

DFL

Katie Sieben

Chris Eaton

Ken Kelash

John Harrington

Roger Reinert

NO

GOP

Ray Vandeveer

Pam Wolf

Benjamin Kruse

Warren Limmer

Roger Chambelain

DFL

Mary Jo McGuire