Republican leaders said Wednesday that their new Minnesota Vikings stadium plan would likely require a roof, but offered few other details on their still-sketchy proposal.
After Gov. Mark Dayton earlier in the day called the Republican plan a last-minute “hare-brained scheme”, House and Senate Republican leaders met with the DFL governor and said afterward they would move forward with it providing Dayton and the Vikings were willing to work together on it.
But even in the volatile world of stadium politics, the events of the past two days left much confusion.
House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said the new plan would use a more stable form of state financing – general obligation bonds – than the charitable gaming revenue Dayton wanted to use to fund the state’s $398 million stadium contribution. He also added that using general obligation bonds meant the project would need a roof.
“We hope this is fruitful,” Dean said of the sudden talks at the state Capitol surrounding the new Republican stadium plan. “We’re trying to find a solution that the Legislature can agree to.
“If it’s not productive and it’s not helpful, then we can move on to other solutions to try to get done to get out” and adjourn this year’s legislative session.
Dean had earlier called the new plan a “turf down” proposal, saying that the state would take a minimalist approach to the $1 billion stadium and only pay for its surrounding infrastructure. He said the proposal would pay for 25 percent, or "north of $250 million", of the stadium’s total construction.
Dayton and DFL leaders said that while they would study the proposal they preferred having the House and Senate vote on the governor’s plan, which would also build the stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Both the Vikings and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said Tuesday they did not support the new, last-minute plan, but Dean said Republicans were attempting to reach out to city officials.
“The bottom line is there’s no there, there,” House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said Wednesday of the Republican plan.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, also said there were "serious questions" whether state general obligation bonds, which he said require a "public purpose", could legally be used because the publicly-owned stadium would feature a long-term lease with a single, private tenant, the Vikings.
But Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, said that relying on state general obligation bonds was a more fiscally-sound way to finance the stadium, and said Dayton’s proposal was not only “structurally flawed” but had also included a series of “outside, backroom agreements” inserted as a way to buy political support for the project.
“They did whatever they had to do to move a bad bill through the committee process,” said Nienow.
The Dayton-backed stadium plan, which has cleared several House and Senate committees, awaits a vote of the full House and Senate.
Earlier in the day, a visibly frustrated Dayton launched a new verbal attack at Republicans over their late-hour plan for a Minnesota Vikings stadium, calling it a “hare-brained scheme” that was likely meant to scuttle the project.
Dayton spent a second day harshly criticizing House and Senate Republican leaders after they outlined a surprise plan a day earlier to only build a “turf down” stadium with state bonds that would leave the bulk of the project for the Vikings and a local partner to build.
"I think it’s unfortunate that the governor has jumped the gun [again] in news conferences on a plan that he has yet to see,” Jodi Boyne, a House Republican spokesperson, said before Republican leaders met with the governor. “We’re working on the details of the plan. These plans are very complex.”
Republican leaders acknowledged Tuesday they had been meeting for several days – the exact time was not clear – to assemble the plan and discuss it with the Vikings without informing Dayton.
“When you say you’re negotiating -- you’re negotiating,” Dayton said of his own stadium meetings with Republicans. “You’re not plotting something behind people’s back.
“I can’t deal with people who say one thing, and do another,” he said. “If this project crashes which, you know, it’s on its way to the ground right now, I don’t see how it can be salvaged” after what occurred Tuesday.
The governor, a longtime stadium proponent, said that he suspected the Republican stadium plan was aimed at making sure Dayton did not come away from the about-to-end legislative session with a series of political victories. “That’s the way I view it,” he said.
Dayton had particularly pointed words for House Speaker Kurt Zellers – he said he had a candid conversation with Zellers earlier Wednesday – and Thissen likewise was critical of the House Speaker.
Though he has been largely non-committal on a new Vikings stadium, Zellers on Tuesday said he liked the idea to minimize the state’s commitment to using between $200 million and $300 million in state general obligation bonds to simply build the infrastructure around a new stadium.
The plan favored by Dayton, which had two Republican House and Senate chief authors, would have the state assume a much larger role in the $1 billion project. The Vikings would contribute $427 million, the state would add $398 million by allowing electronic bingo and pull tabs in Minnesota’s bars and restaurants and Minneapolis would contribute $150 million.
The team would also add $327 million over time for the stadium’s operation, and the city would add $189 million.
“I’ve been for this project from the very beginning, and nobody wants it more than I – not for myself, but for the people of Minnesota,” said Dayton.