Vikings stadium mess: A sign of things to come?

  • Article by: JEFF JOHNSON
  • Updated: April 1, 2013 - 9:11 PM

Yes, we’re lacking leadership on the Vikings stadium debacle

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This was one idea for the new Vikings stadium, though officials stressed that a final design will probably look much different.

Photo: File photo , Star Tribune

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You have to love it when a plan comes together — Legislature and governor, Democrats and Republicans, a bipartisan piece of legislation that accomplishes exactly what was intended.

With the news that the $34 million annual revenue estimate from electronic pulltabs to cover the state’s $348 million contribution to a new Vikings stadium is just a tad optimistic — by about $32.3 million — you might think the stadium legislation isn’t working as planned. You’d be wrong — but that’s understandable.

If you had followed the stadium debate in the media and had listened to Gov. Mark Dayton standing next to NFL dignitaries extolling “Purple Prosperity,” you might have thought the stadium legislation was all about cutting the best deal for the people of Minnesota. Again, you’d be wrong, but let’s allow the governor to explain it to you:

“Unless somebody can prove conclusively otherwise, I would say everybody — the Gambling Control Board, the Department of Revenue, the Legislature, Republicans and Democrats, and my administration — everybody acted in good faith, and has applied their best judgment to a totally unprecedented situation,” Dayton told the Star Tribune.

“The Legislature, if they misunderstood the situation, they have no one to blame but themselves. And I have no one to blame but myself,” he added.

Exactly as planned.

Building Zygi Wilf a new stadium was a populist piece of legislation that the governor and politicians of both parties decided last year simply had to get done — regardless of the details. Consequently, the stadium deal the governor fought so hard for was more about negotiating votes and support for any deal than it was actually looking at the deal as a business decision or attempting to get the best possible agreement for Minnesota’s taxpayers.

Once again, Dayton has the answer.

“We all knew this was uncharted territory,” he told the Star Tribune. Because the games had not been tried in the state, he said, it was appropriate for state gambling officials to ask for advice from … wait for it … the gambling industry — companies with a vested interested in gambling expansion.

“You have to turn to somebody who has some knowledge and expertise,” Dayton said. “I don’t know what caused it to go awry,” he added. “I know we’re going to work to correct it.”

“We’re going to work to correct it.”

How often do we hear that phrase echoed by a government official after government has embarked on some “good faith” experiment into “uncharted territory” with taxpayer money?

“We’re going to work to correct it.”

And who’s going to do all that working and correcting?

Dayton and his administration, the ones who gave us the Vikings stadium mess in the first place.

What could possibly go wrong?

It’s an easy but cheap shot to criticize Dayton for his lack of leadership and oversight on the stadium issue. What ought to be of more concern to Minnesotans is his aggressive leadership on expanding the scope of government into even more areas of our personal lives.

The governor who engineered the Vikings stadium deal has now turned his attention to engineering a state-run health insurance exchange that will dramatically change the way Minnesotans purchase health care.

The governor who didn’t know the stadium legislation allowed the Vikings to charge seat licensing fees to cover a portion of the team’s contribution is crafting an exchange that will detail the mandatory benefits of insurance policies allowed in it.

The governor who accepted revenue estimates on electronic pulltabs that ended up being embarrassingly wrong is now estimating the cost of a state-run health exchange.

The governor who relied on gambling interests to advise him on gambling expansion is now relying on federal bureaucrats to advise him on government health care expansion.

What could possibly go wrong?

If the stadium fiasco is any indication, we’ll know shortly when Gov. Dayton issues a statement saying, “I don’t know what caused the health insurance exchange to go awry, but I know we’re going to work to correct it.”

Yes, we’re lacking leadership on the Vikings stadium debacle in the governor’s office right now, but leadership is not the biggest issue. The biggest issue is the direction our leader is headed.

With a backpack full of “good faith” intentions and taxpayer dollars, Mark Dayton is headed into ever more “uncharted territory” where government doesn’t belong, has no authority to be involved and has no expertise to be messing around.

But no worries. If anything goes wrong, we’ll “work to correct that.”

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Jeff Johnson, of Plymouth, is a member of the Hennepin County Board and is Minnesota’s Republican National Committeeman.

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