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As Vikings stadium plan is unveiled, state quickly revises funding

Posted by: under Funding, Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators, Republicans, State budgets Updated: March 9, 2012 - 2:34 PM

In a sign that there may be major worries over a Minnesota Vikings funding package, Gov. Mark Dayton outlined a revised plan Friday to show how revenue from electronic pulltabs would help fund the project.

Standing with State Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans, the governor said that allowing electronic bingo and pulltabs in the state’s bars and restaurants would produce $62.5 million annually that the state could use for the $975 million stadium. Officials had earlier estimated that the gambling expansion would mean $72 million a year for the state, but said the revisions were made to satisfy charitable gaming officials who want tax relief for their industry as part of any Vikings stadium deal.

The governor's revised funding plan however quickly met with controversy.  After the press briefing, a spokesman for Allied Charities of Minnesota said the charitable gaming industry did not know about the press briefing and said there was no agreement with the Dayton administration on whether the revenue estimates were accurate or how the new revenues should be split.

"We have no deal," said Ray Bohn, a spokesman.  "We're pretty offended."

Frans meanwhile said the charitable gaming revenues would be enough for a Vikings stadium.  “We feel confident that this is a revenue stream that we can rely on” for the state’s $398 million contribution to the stadium, said Frans.

But he quickly conceded that should electronic bingo and pulltab revenues not generate enough money, the state would have to look at a backup funding stream that might need to be supported directly by state money – a move many Republican legislators who hold the majority in the House and Senate have already said they would reject.

“That’s something we’ll have to look at,” said Frans.

The surprise press briefing and latest revisions showed that, even as the Vikings stadium legislation was being introduced, concerns over the reliability of electronic pulltab money was but one more worry for the project’s complicated politics and financing.

Dayton and Frans announced the revised plan while acknowledging that they did not yet know whether leaders of the charitable gaming industry would support it. “We’re awaiting their response,” said Frans.

The DFL governor spent much of the morning lobbying for the stadium, which could have its first hearings in the House and Senate next week. But his meetings Friday with legislative leaders, including House Speaker Kurt Zellers, indicated their support for the project may be tepid as the Legislature heads for an April adjournment.

“If the electronic pulltabs just [doesn’t] work why, then, no one can probably vote for it,” Senate Majority Leader David Senjem said after Dayton visited with him for a half hour Friday morning. “We have to be assured there’s a financing mechanism that works.”

Of whether the Vikings stadium legislation would pass the Legislature yet this spring, Senjem said: “We’ll do the best we can. If it’s not good enough, why, we’ll have to I suppose set it aside and [do it] at a different time.”
 

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