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Senate panel strips Target Center upgrade from stadium bill

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: April 23, 2012 - 1:14 PM

Updated at 1:13 p.m.

With little debate, a Senate committee voted Friday to nix Minneapolis' most sought-after provision in the Vikings stadium bill: Target Center upgrades.

The ability to use existing sales taxes to renovate and pay debt on the city-owned Target Center has been a focal point of Mayor R.T. Rybak's sales pitch for the Vikings stadium plan. It's allowed him to repeat whenever possible that the plan lowers city property taxes, by taking Target Center off the property tax rolls.

But a unanimous voice vote in the Local Government and Elections Committee got rid of that altogether. The provision could still be added in, but it shows how uneasy St. Paul legislators are with any perceived favoritism of Minneapolis.

Some St. Paul-area legislators believe allowing Minneapolis to use sales tax dollars to improve Target Center puts Xcel Center at a competitive disadvantage.

The amendment was sponsored by Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, who said it was in response to concerns "about a shift in the balance of equity" between the two venues.

It not only strips out new language giving the city more flexibility to use its sales tax dollars, but it also eliminates 2009 legislation that gave the city more power over that money. What's more, it deletes language nullifying sections of the Minneapolis charter -- echoing an earlier effort in the House.

Sen. Julie Rosen, the Senate sponsor of the stadium bill, said Target Center is a "very critical part [of] Minneapolis' deal" but "we will try to make it as equitable as possible for Xcel going forward."

Rybak's reaction was unusually tepid. He sympathized with Harrington's concerns about Xcel and did not explicitly denounce the amendment.

"I do want to remind people that I've been very clear from the beginning that the only way that we can pass this on our end is with the package that we brought forward," Rybak said. "But I also believe that the senator has been leading us through this and I'm open to any kind of dialogue as we move forward."

Harrington told a reporter after the hearing that deleting the Target Center language will likely just be a stopgap measure until there is a solution for Xcel.

Rybak said in an interview Monday afternoon that he knew of the amendment in advance and did not react more harshly because he is confident the language will be reinstated.

"The bill’s going to take lots of different forms up and down over the next couple weeks," Rybak said. "Everyone involved is completely clear that this will only happen if we have the ability address Target Center."

Permanently eliminating that provision from the bill will likely erode the seven-member majority support Rybak has built on the Minneapolis City Council.

House tries to revive Vikings stadium plan, fans rally at State Capitol.

Staff Writer Jim Ragsdale contributed to this report.

(This post has been updated to include response from Rybak)

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