Lawmakers want voter approval as part of proposed stadium financing

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The Minnesota Vikings biggest loss of the season to date may not have taken place on the field.

Gov. Mark Dayton announced that there is not House or Senate support for an exemption to state law requiring a voter referendum to increase a local sales tax that would have helped finance a new stadium.

The governor said he’ll meet with team officials and legislative leaders to “actively” discuss other financing options. Dayton previously stated that he’d unveil his stadium proposal by Nov. 7 with hopes of a special session to pass a stadium-financing package the week of Thanksgiving.

“My timetable may or may not be feasible,” Dayton said.

The announcement is a potentially big blow to the football team’s stadium plans. A proposal favored by the Vikings calls for the construction of a $1.1 billion stadium on 430 acres in Arden Hills. The team would pay about $420 million, Ramsey County $350 million through a 0.5 percent sales tax increase and the state would contribute $300 million. The site would also include ample game-day parking and a significant amount of retail.

Part of Mayor R.T. Rybak’s funding proposal to keep the Vikings at one of three sites in Minneapolis includes a 0.35 percent sales tax increase in the city. The mayor has also pushed a potential downtown casino as a way to raise the city’s share of stadium costs.

Without the sales tax law exemption, the earliest either Ramsey County or the City of Minneapolis could conduct a referendum would be at the November 2012 election, something Dayton said was “problematic.”

The Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome expires after this season. Although team officials have not made any public threats, there is a fear amongst many fans that the team will move without a new facility.

“We’ll continue to look at other means to finance the public share,” Dayton said. He has not ruled out using the state’s Legacy funds or an expansion of gambling, noting that electronic pull tabs “has the most promise” in his opinion. Increasing the state share is also an option.

“We’re anxious to see the package going forward,” said Lester Bagley, the team’s vice president of public affairs and stadium development. “We’ll continue to work on other options for funding.”

Stadium proponents have previously noted that the funding for Target Field — which opened for the Minnesota Twins in 2010 — included a sales tax increase in Hennepin County that was assessed without voter approval. However, a majority of legislators who supported that bill are no longer in the House.

“I’ve concluded nothing will be easy with this project,” Dayton said.