Republicans pitch stadium plan to skeptical governorby Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio
The lid is back on a Republican plan to build a new $1 billion Minnesota Vikings stadium in Minneapolis.
As Republican legislators were filling in the some details on their last-minute plan for a do-over on a stadium, they said it may have to have a roof after all. But they stuck by their offer to pay for it out of the state's general fund, which would include sales and income taxes.
The previous plan for a stadium called for $398 million in state financing, paid for through an expansion of gambling. It also included $427 million from the Vikings and $150 million from the city of Minneapolis. But House Majority Leader Matt Dean said Wednesday that paying for the stadium with new gambling is not necessary.
"We have said that we could pay for the infrastructure bonds with general obligation bonds," said Dean, R-Dellwood. "We now believe that is the case."
But if an open-air stadium is used only by the state's NFL franchise, Dean said it likely wouldn't qualify for public funding.
"It may require a roof if we are to use general obligation bonds," he said. "So that is a change."
But Gov. Mark Dayton still isn't buying the Republican plan. Before an afternoon meeting with GOP leaders, he accused them of bait-and-switch — saying that they'd been in talks for months on the plan his administration hammered out, only to drop it and substitute their own at the last minute.
"The Republican leadership yesterday, the day after they were supposed to have adjourned, come forward with this hare-brained scheme, that would basically destroy the project as it was conceived, destroy it as it was funded, and for all practical purposes destroy it for this legislative session," Dayton said.
After the meeting the governor said he'd think about the GOP plan — after the Republicans conceded it might have to have a roof, making it ready to host amateur sports and other events.
"We've made it very clear," Dayton said. "It has to be vetted by our experts, by Ted Mondale and by his consultants, and by the House and Senate DFL as well as the Vikings. So there's a long way to go with this and not much time."
But House Minority Leader Paul Thissen suggested that it may be too late.
"I mean, the bottom line is there is no there there yet," said Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. "It's very clear that there's no details to this proposal, and Rep. Dean himself admitted that there's more questions than answers on this."
Republicans defended their plan. Dean suggested that Republicans were trying to put together two faltering initiatives at the Capitol — the stadium and a bill to fund major projects — in hopes that they might work together where they failed apart.
"There was a stumbling block, I believe along the way, with the revenue source," Dean said. "Also, there's a great need across the state of Minnesota for some infrastructure upgrades in a bonding bill. So, we said there may be an opportunity to merge those two needs into a new opportunity."
State Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, suggested that stumbling block was the original plan to fund the stadium with new, electronic pull tabs, bingo and sports-themed tip boards. It would balloon charitable gambling from a $900 million industry to a $2.6 billion industry, according to state revenue projections.
"You would have what essentially are slot machines in two or three thousand locations in the state of Minnesota," Nienow said. "You would have little mini casinos in every little bar in every town in Minnesota. So think about it. I don't know if we even have 3,000 McDonalds in Minnesota. OK? I'm sure we don't we probably have three or four or five hundred. So multiply McDonalds times 10, and that's what you're going to have for these little slot machines."
Several House members agreed — saying they didn't think the previous plan for a billion dollar stadium in Minneapolis had the votes to pass, despite the months of tinkering and negotiations on the terms of the deal.
If the Republicans are going to pass their new plan they don't have much time. State law allows the Legislature only five more working days before they have to adjourn.
- All Things Considered, 05/02/2012, 5:20 p.m.