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Hennepin County: Don’t rob from Twins stadium to pay for Vikings

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Target Field (Hennepin Co. photo)
Target Field
Target Field (Hennepin Co. photo)

State officials may soon be searching the couch cushions looking for change to boost electronic pulltab revenues for the Vikings stadium.

And Hennepin County Board Chairman Mike Opat has a very, very clear message for them: "Our position to date and going forward is going to be very, very strong opposition, to using any of the ballpark sales tax."

There is some extra money there. Opat says the .15 percent countywide sales tax approved by the Legislature and Hennepin Commissioners in 2006 is more than enough to pay the debt service on Target Field's 30-year bonds.

"We're looking at being able to pay off the debt 5 to 10 years early. It's significant and we're proud of that fact," Opat says, calling it the result of prudent financial management. "I cannot think there would be one vote over here to participate in backfilling a hole in with the football stadium that comes as a result of poor planning with the pulltab revenue."

And it's not just a matter of political support on the Hennepin County board. In an interview this afternoon, Opat had another choice word -- "Constitution" -- when he spoke about the ballpark tax, an indication there might have already been some legal legwork done on the idea.

"It's been unprecedented in state law that the state would hijack a local revenue for a state purpose. The governor has been very clear that the football stadium would be the People's Stadium for the people of Minnesota. So, if there's an issue how you finance the debt, it would be my strong opinion that the state would have to backfill that with some state revenue, whether it be general revenues or a new state revenue that the Legislature would pass. But never in the history, since 1958 when the Constitution was amended, am I aware that the state has taken a local revenue and applied it to a different purpose without local approval."

But, as even Opat acknowledges, the Legislature usually gets to decide what is and what isn't against the law.