The legislative commission charged with Metropolitan Council oversight met for the first time in more than three years to review the organization’s draft 2012 budget. However, the proposed site for a new Minnesota Vikings’ stadium helped delay that discussion for another day.
With an annual budget of nearly $780 million, the Metropolitan Council coordinates the delivery of services in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area, including mass transit and wastewater.
The 14-member Legislative Commission on Metropolitan Government is charged with keeping an eye on the council’s budget and work program.
Because council members are appointed by the governor, rather than elected, “There’s concern with the amount of money and authority the council has,” said Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (R-Lakeville).
A question from Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls) regarding the council’s role in regional development generated discussion about its review of the proposed Minnesota Vikings’ stadium in Arden Hills.
In August, Gov. Mark Dayton asked the council to look into any potential risk that could be associated with the proposed site, especially as it relates to infrastructure needs, permitting and approval issues.
Patrick Born, the council’s regional administrator, said the request should be completed by Oct. 15.
“Our analysis is on that site, and the implications on the rest of the region we would leave to another day. We are looking at the infrastructures needed to support the site,” he said.
The plan being floated about calls for $350 million of project costs coming from a sales tax increase in Ramsey County; $300 million from the state and a $407 million team contribution.
The House member representing several communities near the stadium site said the findings may show the need for costly infrastructure improvements.
“I call it the Ramsey County Vikings stadium,” said Rep. Bev Scalze (DFL-Little Canada). “I fight constantly for the northeast metro, because infrastructure dollars flow elsewhere. I think the Met Council has to look at equitable use of taxpayers’ dollars. “
While the commission took no action, Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover), the newly elected chair, said more meetings will be scheduled. She said local units of government have asked for more council oversight and that in these times of tight budgets, it’s important to “look under every rock for efficiencies. … I really do want a package of recommendations for the Legislature by the time session rolls around.”