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Rybak: Don’t expect Minneapolis to make good on state’s e-pulltab bet

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Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak talks about three sites he's hoping to offer to the VIkings to succeed the Metrodome. They include  a Metrodome remodel and two sites between Target Field and the Basicilica of St. Mary. MPR Photo/Tim Nelson
Rybak pitches stadium plan (MPR Photo/Tim Nelson)
Rybak pitches stadium plan (MPR Photo/Tim Nelson)

First the good news: Minneapolis hospitality tax revenues for last year came out about $4 million ahead of budget expectations.

That money comes from hotel, food and drink taxes downtown, and most of it helps pay for the Minneapolis Convention Center. But some of it will eventually go to the new Vikings stadium and the Target Center renovation.

Which brings us to the bad news: The city's partner on the stadium--the state of Minnesota--is coming up short on its end of the Vikings stadium deal. Electronic pulltab proceeds are coming at pennies on the expected dollar in a much-slower-than-expected rollout.

So, will the state be tempted by that budget surplus in Minneapolis?

"It's not a surplus. It's very important to not use the word surplus," Rybak says. "It's more than we budgeted. The city of Minneapolis is generating new revenue. But we always said that in the years when we realized more, we'd bank that so we'd be able to withstand down years."

City council member Gary Schiff suggested at a mayoral debate yesterday that he'd like to re-open the Vikings stadium deal if he wins the corner office in City Hall, presumably with an eye toward pushing back on the state's deal.

But rival council member Betsy Hodges seems to already feel the cold eye of the state turning to Minneapolis. "My fear is that somewhere down the road, they're going to come knocking at the city's door to say 'We're going to need you to kick in more to save the Vikings and save the stadium,'" Hodges said during the debate. "When I'm mayor, the answer to that question will be, 'no.'"

Back at City Hall, the incumbent mayor was already playing defense.

"Anybody can propose anything," Rybak said in an interview, when asked if he was worried the Legislature might be tempted to reach into the pocket of the stadium's host city for a little extra cash. "I sat with leaders of both parties and said I would develop a strong fiscal plan that would withstand the test of time. We did that, and I would assume that no one would mess that up."

Or, in other words, a deal's a deal, as far as the mayor is concerned:

"The state came up with its share, it my job was to come up with ours. Our package took a conservative estimate, because we know that sales taxes are extremely volatile. We're proud that our plan is showing to be conservative and ahead of budget, and we are doing with it exactly what I promised."