A decision is about to be rendered on an issue that has hung over the legislative session like a purple cloud.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) announced that a vote on a stadium to house the Minnesota Vikings is scheduled to occur Monday.
“It’s only fair to members and fair to everyone to vote on this,” said House Majority Leader Matt Dean (R-Dellwood).
Earlier this week House and Senate Republicans put forth a proposal that would include stadium funding in this year’s bonding bill. It would reduce the state’s contribution to a yet-unspecified amount and would call for an open-air, “roof-ready” facility.
Dean said the Vikings and Minneapolis officials were not happy about the proposal, and that staff from Minnesota Management & Budget indicated it would be difficult to use general obligation bonds to fund the stadium.
“We do not want to move something forward that is not going to stand the test of scrutiny with MMB,” Dean said.
The plan up for a vote calls for a $975 million fixed-roof stadium to be built primarily on the Metrodome site on the eastern edge of downtown Minneapolis. The team would cover $427 million of construction costs; the state $398 million; and Minneapolis $150 million.
Money from electronic pull tabs, electronic bingo and tipboard games would be used to pay the state’s share of the stadium cost. Supporters noted that charities would get tax relief and more gambling proceeds while the state also would get more revenue. Rep. Morrie Lanning (R-Moorhead), the sponsor of the original stadium bill HF2810, said $42 million per year would be needed to pay debt service on the bonds. The bill contains four back-up proposals in case, as some legislators predict, electronic gambling devices do not meet revenue estimates.
“The Vikings and the governor believe that the votes are there. At this point it’s going to be up to him to gain the vote,” Zellers said. “Stadiums, whether it be for professional baseball, hockey or football, rise and fall on the will and the ability of a governor to not only sell, but deliver votes. I don’t know that there are votes in the Republican caucus at this point.”
Zellers said publicly for the first time he will not vote for the stadium proposal because cost overruns would be funded by taxpayers, he believes the team should pay at least 50 percent of the cost and he believes Minneapolis voters should have a say in the city contribution. However, he will not “stand in the way” of any member who wants to support the plan. He also said there will be opportunities for amendments.
“I am very pleased that the Republican legislative leaders have agreed to my request for up-or-down votes in both bodies on a new “People’s Stadium” that would provide jobs for several thousand Minnesotans and keep the Vikings here. Now everyone will be able to hold legislators accountable for that momentous decision,” Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement.
“I will continue to do all I can to convince them that this is a good deal for Minnesota, the best deal available, and much better than the alternative: losing thousands of jobs, losing the Vikings, and losing the “Can Do” spirit, which is Minnesota.”
If passed by the House, the stadium bill would then go to the Senate.
“I don’t know if it has the votes to pass,” said Senate Majority Leader David Senjem (R-Rochester).
Zellers said that the stadium bill is “unequivocally” the governor’s top priority, while his remains helping Minnesota’s small business owners. “In a number of different cases all session long, the governor has either been disrespectful or dismissive to a number of legislators — not just Republicans, but Democrats as well — top priorities.”
If the stadium and/or the bonding bill were to fail in the House, session would not necessarily be over.
“Let’s just wait and see. We don’t predispose anything at this point,” Zellers said.