Legislators can't buy a cup of coffee at the Capitol without somebody questioning their motives. Roll out a radically new stadium funding scheme a day after the originally scheduled session adjournment date, as leaders of the Republican majorities did Tuesday, and suspicion that a poltical trick was afoot was understandably rampant.
Gov. Mark Dayton's angry initial reaction indicated that he shared the skeptics' assessment. But his calmer tone Wednesday afternoon, after meeting with the GOP proponents of using general obligation bonds to pay for a stadium, suggested that he no longer doubted the sincerity of the GOP effort.
After Thursday's quick GOP retreat from their idea, no one should. If adding the stadium to the bonding bill had been a political stunt, as many Capitol wags first surmised, the resistance the idea encountered from state bonding authorities would not have deterred them. The majority leaders would have pressed on. They even might have succeeded in giving political cover to GOP legislators who don't want to be accused of doing nothing to prevent an NFL exodus from Minnesota, but don't support putting e-pulltabs in many of the state's bars to pay for a new stadium.
What they would not have succeeded in doing is building a stadium or retaining the Vikings. The bonds that the GOP plan would authorize likely would not have passed legal muster, and could not have been issued.
House Majority Leader Matt Dean, an architect by profession and the "architect" of the withdrawn bonding idea, said he spent several hours with state, Minneapolis and Vikings officials Wednesday examining the narrow question: Would general obligation bonding work? State officials' analysis convinced him that the rules governing those bonds, which are backed by state income and sales taxes, would preclude their use for this project, he said.
Dean's chastened tone and the somber faces of GOP leaders as they briefed Capitol reporters Thursday foreshadowed a tense few days ahead for state lawmakers. Republicans plan to bring the bonding and stadium bills up for crucial votes on Monday.