Senators pitch Vikings stadium loan

  • Article by: MIKE KASZUBA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 24, 2012 - 3:45 AM

Three Republicans say the Vikings could borrow $300 million from the state for a stadium but should not get a subsidy. So far, no one's biting on the idea.

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Senate Republicans, including David Hann, foreground, and Roger Chamberlain, said if the Vikings were to borrow the $300 million from the state, the team could add as much other money as it wanted to pay for a stadium.

Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

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Saying taxpayers should have only a minimal role in a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, three Republican senators offered a plan Thursday to give the team a $300 million loan rather than an outright subsidy.

The trio, led by Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, said the state should not be involved in whether the stadium had "gold-plated tile" or needed to cost $1 billion. The proposal also includes a phase-out of the statewide business property tax.

Senate Majority Leader David Senjem said the proposal captures a sentiment among some legislators that a new stadium should not include state general fund money or be funded with gambling money or any other taxpayer aid.

"It's a noble attempt to make this thing work under a free-market approach," Senjem said. "Whether it can or not, I don't know."

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and team officials quickly dismissed the plan, with Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley saying the plan "would not allow the Vikings to be competitive" compared to the revenue generated by other National Football League stadiums in markets of similar size.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, chief House author of stadium legislation, called the plan "unrealistic."

In calling for the tax elimination, the senators said doing so could be an incentive for businesses to financially partner with the Vikings on a new stadium.

Dayton, who wants the state more involved financially in a Vikings stadium, said in a statement that "some Republican legislators now want to force me into accepting their scheme for eliminating all property taxes on businesses in order to get their approval for a new 'People's Stadium.'" Dayton said elimination of the business property tax would inevitably trigger increases in residential property taxes.

"I will not raise taxes on the people of Minnesota to build a new stadium -- not property taxes and not any other general tax," Dayton said, noting that he would continue to "work cooperatively with the Republican authors of the stadium bill, their DFL colleagues, the city of Minneapolis and others who want to find a responsible way to put several thousand Minnesotans back to work."

Chamberlain said his support for any stadium plan was not tied to elimination of the tax. "It's not a price of a vote -- that is spinning things out of control," Chamberlain said in responding to a reporter's question at a Thursday press conference. "Does it have to be in the bill? We would like to see it there."

Chamberlain and Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, a co-author, said the cost of the stadium would be left to the Vikings and the business community. A state loan would be repaid with user fees generated by the project. One scenario, Chamberlain said, called for a 10 percent user fee tax.

The three senators -- Chamberlain and Hann were joined by Sen. Pam Wolf, R-Spring Lake Park -- added that the loan amount could be more or less than $300 million, depending on what the Vikings wanted. "The $300 million can go up or down," said Chamberlain. "The Vikings can spend as much or as little as they want" on a new stadium. The state would pay for surrounding infrastructure improvements.

With Republicans hoping to adjourn in late April, Dayton, the team and the city of Minneapolis have in the meantime been working on a plan to build a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis at or near the Metrodome, the team's home for 30 years.

Despite almost daily headlines surrounding that effort, no proposal has been announced.

Their tentative plan would also use electronic bingo and pulltab revenue. Chamberlain and Hann said Thursday any proposal pairing gambling money and a stadium was almost sure to fail at the Capitol.

"We've been hearing that for five months -- that 'we're going to have a bill next week,'" Hann said of the effort being led by the governor.

Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673

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