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St. Paul balks at stadium tax

Posted by: under Funding, Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, State budgets Updated: July 5, 2011 - 12:53 PM

By ROCHELLE OLSON

The St. Paul City Council appears ready to unanimously oppose Wednesday a Ramsey County sales-tax increase for the proposed Minnesota Vikings stadium in Arden Hills.

Although numerous council members had expressed reservations about the tax, the vote will be their first public stance. The action follows comments weeks ago by Mayor Chris Coleman who said he would prefer a statewide penny fee increase on bottles of booze instead of a tax that hits only the county.

Six of the city’s council members signed on as sponsors to the one-page resolution opposing the half-cent sales tax increase. Council Member Melvin Carter, who isn’t a sponsor, said he “absolutely” supports the resolution. Ramsey County commissioners have proposed using the tax increase to raise $350 million as the county contribution toward the Vikings stadium. The stadium is expected to cost $1 billion, with $407 million coming from the Vikings and $300 million from the state.

"Whether the stadium is the right thing to do or not, it's just too steep a price for St. Paul and Ramsey County taxpayers," said Russ Stark, a City Council member.

Carter said, “The proposal on the table is counting on a tax increase from the people we represent. We owe it to them to be very clearly on the record.”

The resolution notes the city’s portion of the $350 million would be $165 million, akin to raising the city’s property tax levy 173 percent -- “an amount the city would never consider imposing to pay for our basic services.”

Nothing has been officially released about stadium negotiations since the state shutdown Friday. Negotiations to build the stadium have been done privately, behind-closed-doors and reports have indicated the cost of the stadium may have dropped as low as $800 million while the Vikings’ contribution increased, although the team has said terms remain in flux.  In addition, no one is grabbing the tab for road improvements near the former munitions site. Those costs are estimated between $70 million and $131 million.

A stadium deal is widely believed to already be -- or will become part of -- the closed-door state budget talks.

The City Council’s resolution would encourage the team and “other interested parties to consider options for constructing a stadium that minimize the risk to the taxpayers, limit the level of public subsidy (particularly for the host community), and promote a fair, multi-jurisdictional participation for a statewide amenity.”

That means the council believes the cost of a public subsidy should be borne statewide, not simply by the county.

The resolution was worked out Friday as a late-addition for Wednesday’s meeting. The proposal doesn’t yet appear on the agenda for the meeting.

Lester Bagley, the Vikings vice president for stadium development and public affairs, said Tuesday he had not seen the resolution.

Metropolitan Sports Facilities Chair Ted Mondale, Gov. Mark Dayton's lead stadium negotiator, declined comment.

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