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Legislative leaders cool to stadium bill

Posted by: under Funding, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators, State budgets Updated: April 1, 2011 - 5:31 PM

The Vikings stadium bill that will be unveiled next week got a decidedly lukewarm reception from legislative leaders of both parties Friday, even as the Republican authors are pushing on..

Gov. Mark Dayton, however, described the bill as "a good start."

In a rare case of agreement between Republicans and DFLers, they said during their weekly session with the Capitol press corps that any talk of public subsidies for a new stadium will have to take a back seat to continuing debates over the state's budget woes.

Even though the bill is being pushed by two leading Republican legislators, House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch both beat a retreat from it.

"I hate to sound like a broken record, but until they have a site, until they have a plan, until they have a partner, it's awfully hard for us and the Vikings to get to that point," Zellers said. "If that's what the governor wants, I think it's also time for the governor to engage on this."

Although Gov. Mark Dayton said this week he supports building a "people's stadium" without using state general fund money, he hasn't reacted directly to the bill's particulars, which were released late Thursday.

In a statement released Friday, Dayton said the bill "gets the stadium discussion started within the Legislature," he continued. "It includes what I view as essential elements of a stadium bill, particularly that no general fund dollars be used to pay for it.  It’s up to the Legislature to move this forward, but I am ready to work with them to create a ‘people’s stadium.’”      

 "When we can see all the pieces to the puzzle, then we can talk about that, but that, from my perspective ... that's after we get our budgets done," Zellers said. "I think it's awfully pre-emptive and it's going to have to be a bipartisan bill, as well."

"I think our view on it is very similar to Kurt's," Koch said. "The priority is, and has to be, the budget. This bill, if it's dropped, will go to committee just like any other bill. We love the Vikings, but the budget is the priority right now."

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen said he has "said all along the budget comes first and if  we're not willing to raise taxes for our schools and police and firefighters it's very hard to see rasing taxes to build a Vikings stadium."

 Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, a co-author of an earlier stadium bill, said the surfacing of a stadium bill is a Republican diversionary tactic. "You know why it's in the news? Because they have a really, really poor budget for Minnesota's future. So they put a letter out in the hope, in the hope, that they can change the story. Can we talk about something else that we're doing instead of what we're doing to Minnesota's future

"If they were serious about a stadium bill, they would have introduced it back in January or February. To wait until the middle of all the budget cut bills is just a political gimmick.."

Although there had been talk of a Vikings bill being unveiled early in the legislative session, Zellers and Koch said they didn't advise the authors about when it should be introduced.

Bakk also said that even though he believes it's too late in the session to act on a stadium bill, he said that if Koch becomes a co-sponsor, he'd likely sign on as well.  

Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, the bill's sponsor in the Senate said Friday afternoon that "so far, the reaction has been positive and negative, too. The reality is that people need to know that this can't wait until next year. Everyone knows this is a job creator. The time to discuss the stadium is now that we're close to finishing the budget."
 
As for the leaders' contention that the budget bills need to be wrapped up before taking on the stadium, "it's like every other bill that goes through here -- we can multitask on more than one thing at a time."
 
Rosen said the GOP leadership "has been briefed all along" on the contents and status of the bill. It's premature to say how many substantive changes the bill will go through once it hits the legislature sometime next week, she said.
 
Rep. Morrie Lanning, D- Moorhead, the House sponsor, echoed Rosen, saying he has “goitten positive and negative support. We can’t wait much longer to get this moving.” He called Bakk’s accusations about a Republican diversionary tactic “ridiculous.” He’s just playing his role as the minority leader,” he said.

 

 

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