By Rochelle Olson
A day after Gov. Mark Dayton said he'd support allowing Ramsey County voters to decide on a sales tax for a Minnesota Vikings stadium, a key supporter conceded that if asked, voters wouldn’t agree to pay more.
In an interview Monday at the Star Tribune’s State Fair booth, Dayton said he would support allowing county voters to decide on a proposed half-cent sales tax increase for a new stadium.
Ramsey County has an agreement with the Vikings to build a $1 billion stadium on a former munitions site in Arden Hills. The deal includes a half-cent sales tax increase for Ramsey County to pay $350 million for the stadium. The state also would be expected to pitch in $300 million.
A countywide vote on the project could doom the deal.
When the Legislature approved Target Field for the Twins, the law specifically rejected a sales-tax referendum. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said the same should occur for the Vikings’ stadium proposal. “We would like to be held on the same playing field as the Twins,” Wilf said to reporters after a very brief question-and-answer session with audience members at the St. Paul Rotary luncheon.
Asked if he thought a referendum would fail, Wilf said he couldn’t say.
But Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett told the 100-plus Rotarians at the luncheon that any referendum, including the sales tax for a stadium, would fail “in this climate.” Bennett is a prime pusher of the Ramsey County stadium proposal.
The Ramsey County Charter Commission is meeting Wednesday evening to discuss a possible ballot question on the sales tax.
The question wouldn’t be on the ballot until November 2012. The Vikings have said they want a fall special session to vote on a stadium bill.
Wilf reiterated to reporters that he wants the issue “to be heard as soon as possible” and moving to Arden Hills is “Plan A.” He said he had not considered a “Plan B” yet.
Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley told reporters he was informed the governor wouldn’t push for a referendum, but would sign a bill including one.
Dayton was with President Obama through much of the morning Tuesday and not available for comment.
Metropolitan Sports Facilities Chairman Ted Mondale, Dayton’s
hand-picked stadium czar, was seeking clarification from Dayton.
Asked if he and Dayton had discussed a referendum requirement, Mondale said, “No, this is the first time the issue has come up at his level.”