Doug Belden, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn. –
Responding to a longstanding request from state lawmakers, Minneapolis leaders delivered a show of support for a new Vikings stadium Monday, March 26 in the form of letters from seven City Council members.
The letters aren’t identical, and they don’t guarantee support will continue if lawmakers change the terms of the current stadium bill, but they do appear to address one of the remaining roadblocks to legislative action.
“It’s a positive sign,” said Morrie Lanning, sponsor of the stadium bill in the House. “That doesn’t mean all is said and done here.”
“We have a majority for exactly what we’re putting forward today, and not much more, frankly,” said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
Despite the fragile coalition, and despite the fact that it’s not a single letter with seven signatures, “the letters make one consistent important point: Seven council members support the package that Council President Johnson and I have negotiated with the Vikings and with the state,” Rybak said.
If the bill were to be passed by the Legislature in the form it currently exists, the 13-member council is committed to passing it, Rybak said.
But that’s a big if.
“You can’t guarantee anyone that there’s not going to be any changes,” Lanning said.
And even if the Minneapolis majority holds, the bill faces other challenges.
One is an agreement with charitable groups on splitting new revenue the state is counting on as part of the package.
State officials have
estimated authorizing electronic versions of the pulltab and bingo games currently played on paper as fund-raisers for local charities would yield $72 million per year in new tax revenue for the state.
Gov. Mark Dayton has offered $10 million of that for tax relief for the charities, but they say it’s not enough.
Charity representatives said last week they were preparing an alternative proposal to Dayton’s and that it might be ready this week. Messages left for comment Monday were not returned.
Some lawmakers have also expressed concern that electronic pulltabs might not be able to provide the funding necessary and that the state’s general fund might be the fallback source if the charitable gaming falls short.
Dayton said the revenue estimates are sound and that there would be enough to finance the state’s portion even if the revenues were off by as much as a third.
“It’s fine to have a backup revenue source, the question is what will it be?” Dayton said. He said he’s open to suggestion from lawmakers.
Lanning has said any backup financing plan can’t be finalized until the split with the charities is resolved.
The Vikings, saying the Metrodome is inadequate by today’s NFL standards, have been pushing for a new stadium for years. Efforts have focused on a $975 million project that would be built over the next four years at the current Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis.
The project would rely on $150 million from the city, using tax money that otherwise would go toward the Minneapolis Convention Center. The state would use new electronic pulltab games to raise $398 million and the team would chip in $427 million.
After its lone hearing at the Capitol stalled without a vote, lawmakers have been waiting for a show of support from Minneapolis on whether to proceed.
The Vikings hope to move into a new 65,000-seat stadium in time for the 2016 season.