The chief Senate author of the plan to build a new Minnesota Vikings stadium clashed with the Senate Minority Leader Thursday over why the project stalled in a Senate committee the day before.
Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, the lead Senate stadium author, said a Senate panel Wednesday could not pass the proposal because DFL senators changed their votes at the last minute.
In a new twist on the politics surrounding the stadium project, Rosen said it was DFLers on the panel who had suddenly switched their votes. “People changed their votes. [It] came down from leadership – wasn’t on our side,” she said.
Did DFL senators whom she thought would vote for the stadium change their votes? Yes, said Rosen. “So, that’s that,” she added.
But Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk disputed what happened. Bakk said he was willing to pledge four DFL votes on the 14-member Senate Local Government and Elections Committee for the proposal. Republicans, who hold eight seats on the panel, were only willing to put up three votes, he said.
“I have six members of the committee. I was willing yesterday to put up four votes – half of what it would have taken to pass the bill along,” said Bakk.
“They were only willing to put up three votes [out] of their eight committee members,” he said. “They have eight members, and they can only find three?
“Why would I put up the majority of the votes? I didn’t write the bill,” said Bakk. “If I’m going to put up the majority of the votes, then I want to write the bill.”
Bakk said Wednesday’s hearing showed that Rosen, despite months of working on the stadium legislation, does not have much support in the Senate Republican caucus. “She supposedly has been working on this for what, 14 months?” he said.
Rosen however said the last-minute vote switching Wednesday was critical. “We needed to have everybody be above board on their votes,” said Rosen. “We thought we had the votes going in yesterday, and the rules changed prior to that and [we] didn’t know about that.”
After the Senate panel abruptly decided Wednesday not to vote on the project, Gov. Mark Dayton criticized Republicans and stadium opponents for using “surrogates” to do “hatchet work” on the stadium legislation without indicating what they would instead support.
“It gets to be, really, the theater of the absurd,” the DFL governor said afterward.
Wednesday’s committee meeting was the first state Capitol hearing for the $975 million stadium, and the outcome staggered the project’s political chances at the Legislature this year. The stadium plan may now need a special procedural exemption by Friday in order to be kept alive.
Rosen said that while she hoped to have the Senate panel take up the plan again, she said she was not sure what would happen next.
“I think all four leaders have to get together to figure this out,” said Rosen, referring to the Republican and DFL leaders in the House and Senate. “They need to get a plan going. It’s out of my hands right now.”