Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday did not rule out tapping the state's Legacy funds to help pay for a Vikings stadium, raising protests about whether an NFL team should qualify as a piece of the state's cultural heritage.
"All options, as far as I am concerned, should be considered," said Dayton, who was unclear how seriously he was considering tapping the fund for the $1.1 billion stadium.
Since Minnesotans passed the Legacy constitutional amendment three years ago, a state sales tax increase has been bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars for projects involving the outdoors, clean water, parks and trails, and arts and cultural heritage. The governor's comments were enough to prompt one of the fund's largest recipients, the Minnesota Historical Society, to urge people to object to legislators and Dayton.
Using the money for a stadium is "contrary to both the intent of the voters and the language of the constitutional amendment," the society said, adding that the stadium debate "is moving quickly, so please take action as soon as you are able."
As Dayton continues his push for a Vikings stadium solution -- he has promised a stadium plan by Nov. 7 and is touring the proposed site in Arden Hills by helicopter Thursday -- there was evidence of strong opposition to using Legacy money among both Republicans and DFL legislators. One legislator, Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, has already promised a lawsuit if Legacy money is proposed for a stadium.
Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, who opposed the Legacy amendment, said he also is against using it for a stadium. "It's not clear to me that the stadium fits into the understanding of arts and cultural heritage," he said.
"I was never a huge fan of putting in the [state] Constitution money for arts and cultural heritage, but that's what the public wanted," said Hann. "We need to honor their wishes."
Hann said a Senate Republican caucus meeting this week arrived at no consensus on funding a Vikings stadium. He plans to hold a news conference Thursday to criticize proposals to expand gambling in Minnesota, another stadium funding option.
Sen. David Thompson, R-Lakeville, who also opposed the Legacy amendment, said he likewise believed it was "probably stretching the definition" of arts and cultural heritage to include a Vikings stadium.
Thompson said the debate over Legacy money illustrates the problem with paying for a Vikings stadium: Every plan, from gambling money to Legacy funds to a sports memorabilia tax, has drawbacks. "It's kind of like Whack-A-Mole," he said. "It seems as though when any one concern is addressed, it raises as many or more concerns in another area."
Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, said he had a different reason for opposing the move. "Had they won a couple of Super Bowls, I would say they have a 'legacy' and we could tie it in," he said. "They're a good football team. We all love them. We don't want to lose them, but I don't think that's the avenue to go."
Howes said he had heard from many voters who oppose using Legacy money for a stadium. Some of them, he said, told him that "if you ever use the Legacy funds, we'll never vote for you again."
Wednesday was not the first time Legacy money has been suggested for a Vikings stadium. Nearly two years ago, then-Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer said the idea made sense. "Absolutely -- that's arts and entertainment," Emmer said of a Vikings stadium.
Dayton's comments Wednesday were somewhat surprising considering his ex-wife, Alida Messinger, who backed his campaign and with whom the governor maintains contact, was a leading contributor to the drive to pass the Legacy amendment.
The team is pushing its plan for a stadium in Arden Hills. The Vikings, under that scenario, would contribute at least $407 million, Ramsey County would add $350 million and the state would contribute $300 million.
Staff writer Baird Helgeson contributed to this report.
Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673