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Stadium bill skirts Minneapolis vote mandate

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: March 9, 2012 - 2:54 PM

The bill to pay for a Vikings stadium, released on Friday afternoon, bypasses a Minneapolis referendum requirement by asserting that the city's $300 million contribution is not actually an expenditure of the city.

That is the same legal argument that stadium backers made at a press conference last week, though it was unclear whether they would explicitly state it in legislation. It's intended to bypass a Minneapolis charter provision requiring a vote when more than $10 million in "city resources" is spent on a sports facility.

Mayor R.T. Rybak has proposed redirecting existing hospitality taxes to pay for the city's share of the stadium. Those taxes currently pay for operations and debt related to the city's convention center. Rybak and other stadium backers argue that since the taxes are authorized by the state, the state is merely reclaiming them.

"These are state dollars," Rybak said last week. "And the state imposes them on the city, and the state has control over them in the city."

The requirement to hold a referendum has proved to be one of the most vexing problems for stadium backers, who are still trying to convince a majority of the City Council to move foward without a citywide vote.

Council member Gary Schiff, a co-author of the charter amendment, has called Rybak's argument "absurd." 

Specifically, the bill says that, "Any amounts expended, indebtedness or obligation incurred, or actions taken by the city under this article are not deemed an expenditure or other use of city resources within the meaning of any law or charter limitation."

Rybak's city attorney has backed that argument, but two city council members predicted that it will invite a court challenge.

The bill also includes a provision that will allow the city to renovate Target Center using the convention center taxes. Last week, Rybak said that facet of the deal would be broken off into a seperate bill.

That may improve its chances at City Hall, but it could also cost votes at the Capitol, where several legislators have been critical of lumping Target Center in with the Vikings plan.

43.1Any amounts expended, indebtedness or obligation incurred, or actions taken by
43.2the city under this article are not deemed an expenditure or other use of city resources
43.3within the meaning of any law or charter limitation. Notwithstanding any ordinance or
43.4charter provision to the contrary, exercise by the city of its powers under this article does
43.5not affect the amounts that the city may otherwise spend, borrow, tax, or receive under any
43.6law. Any tax exemption established under this article shall not be deemed an expenditure
43.7or other use of city resources within the meaning of any charter limitation.

69.19(a) Notwithstanding section 297A.99, or other general or special law or charter
69.20provision, if the revenues from any local tax imposed on retail sales under special law
69.21by a city of the first class exceeds the amount needed to fund the uses authorized in the
69.22special law, the city may expend the excess revenue from the tax to fund other capital
69.23projects of regional significance.
69.24(b) For purposes of this section:
69.25(1) "city of the first class" has the meaning given in section 410.01; and
69.26(2) "capital project of regional significance" means construction, expansion, or
69.27renovation of a sports facility or convention or civic center, that has a construction cost
69.28of at least $40,000,000.
69.29EFFECTIVE DATE.This section is effective the day following final enactment.


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