With just 45 days left in this year’s Legislative session, a proposal to help the Minnesota Vikings build a new taxpayer-subsidized stadium was submitted Friday for a formal introduction but faces a challenging road toward approval.
Despite intense interest in the proposal, the stadium plan was released with little fanfare Friday afternoon. The 24-page proposal was the second to last of 34 legislative bills listed by the state Senate that would be formally introduced on Monday. The bill, whose chief author was Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, had three co-authors, Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, and two DFLers, Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, and Sen. Linda Scheid, DFL-Brooklyn Park.
“I’m glad the Legislature’s taken that step,” Gov. Mark Dayton said Friday.
The legislation, which has been repeatedly delayed by Republican legislators, closely followed an outline that the plan’s two Republican authors released a week ago. Under that plan, the state would commit to as much as a $300 million, largely through a series of so-called user fees including a sports memorabilia tax and Vikings lottery game.
A new Minnesota Stadium Authority would be created under the plan, and would have until Feb. 15, 2012 to select a site for the stadium.
The plan would commit the team, which has played in the Metrodome for 29 years, to contribute $1 for every $2 in state and local money put into a new stadium. But the project, which faces multiple political and financial hurdles, still has no local government partner willing to contribute money nor a location.
Though Dayton remains the project’s most important champion, the proposal has so far received timid support from the Legislature’s Republican majority leaders who maintain that the state’s $5 billion deficit is their top priority.
But Dayton said again Friday there was plenty of time to complete a stadium deal before legislators adjourned in late May. “There’s plenty of time. They’re good at multi tasking. They do that all the time,” he said of legislators.
Dayton also said he would welcome a proposal that, at the very least, created a panel before the Legislature adjourned to help select the new stadium’s location. "I'm agreeable to that -- as long as they pass something that can enable this project to move forward," the governor said.
“I’m optimistic,” said Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar. “I think there’s still plenty of time.”
Since the Metrodome’s inflatable roof collapsed in December, Republican legislators have repeatedly promised to introduce legislation for a new stadium, only to postpone the move. The delays caused DFLers to accuse Republican leaders of using the stadium as a “distraction” from the Republican Party’s aggressive proposals to cut state spending.
“I just think they’re stringing the [stadium] issue along, trying to distract the public [from] the real work of the session, which is the budget,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk. He said Republicans wanted to shift attention from the “very, very significant [budget] reductions that jeopardize Minnesota’s future.
“[Republican] leadership has given no indication they’re going to move it yet,” Bakk said of the stadium bill. “So what’s the point of introducing it?”
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