Veto lengthens odds on Vikings stadium

  • Article by: JIM RAGSDALE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 7, 2012 - 1:09 PM

GOP legislators express dismay with Mark Dayton's axing of their tax cut bill.

Gov. Mark Dayton's veto of a high-priority GOP tax bill Friday drew an angry response from legislative leaders and concerns that the ill will could persist through Monday's climactic vote on a Vikings stadium.

Dayton wasted no time in vetoing the package of business tax cuts that Republicans considered their top priority, saying it would add to the hole in the coming budget and would not provide sufficient help to homeowners, farmers and renters. That prompted Senate Taxes Chairwoman Julianne Ortman to question whether legislators could work with Dayton.

"He vetoed our highest priority," said Ortman said, who also is deputy majority leader. "I think there will be consequences. I think that he has lost the trust of many of my colleagues in the Legislature."

The veto and reaction came as stadium supporters, led by the governor, began a long weekend of cheerleading, arm-twisting and vote-counting in anticipation of Monday's House vote on a bill to build a $975 million stadium. Dayton kicks off public events Saturday with an appearance with Vikings' star Jared Allen at a Mall of America rally.

"Monday is Game Day," said Ted Mondale, chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission and Dayton's point man on the stadium. "We're going to be ready, and we're going to play aggressively, and we're going to get this vote, and we're going to pass it on to the Senate, and we're going to get this deal done."

The issues of business tax relief and a publicly funded football stadium have moved on separate tracks this session. But as the session draws near an end, they appear to be part of the conflict between the DFL governor and the GOP-controlled Legislature.

The tax bill, given final approval in the Senate Thursday night, is a package of tax breaks aimed primarily at businesses. It would have frozen a portion of businesses' property taxes, sped up a sales-tax exemption for new equipment purchases, sweetened tax credits for research and development, and provided relief for homeowners facing large property tax hikes. The bill also contained favorable tax treatment for a number of local projects, including expansion of the Mall of America in Bloomington.

Ortman and House Taxes Chairman Greg Davids, R-Preston, said the bill would stimulate investment, lead to a surge in economic activity and directly create jobs by kicking off long-planned local projects.

But Dayton said the tax breaks would add $145 million to a deficit already projected at $1 billion in the coming budget cycle and was tilted too heavily to corporations, with only limited support for homeowners.

His veto came a day after he vetoed a bill to end seniority-based layoffs for teachers -- another high-priority item for GOP legislators.

"We have a governor that's called us unfit to govern, he's called us liars, said we're sneaking around him," said normally amiable Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester. "That gets a little tiring."

Such blowups are not unusual in a session's waning days. Senjem, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, and Dayton each suggested some mutually acceptable tax provisions could still be salvaged.

But Dayton also said he has his limits. "I made it very clear earlier this week to legislative leaders that I would not sign a bad tax bill for a stadium -- I would not make that kind of trade," he said.

Dayton said he will do whatever he can to support the stadium this weekend, including appearing at the megamall with Allen over the lunch hour on Saturday.

Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, a chief sponsor of the stadium bill, expressed confidence but said, "We have a little work to do." Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said a successful vote is "within striking distance. It's in position, and there's a handful of folks we need to come our way."

Zellers has become the most prominent opponent of the current deal. He maintains that the team should contribute more and should bear the risk for construction cost overruns.

He said he "misspoke" in a radio interview on Thursday when he said he wants to see the bill pass, and meant that he wants the team to stay even though he opposes the current bill. He denied Dayton's contention that Zellers told NFL officials he had enough GOP votes to pass the current bill.

The Vikings bill contains the elements of a "term sheet" negotiated among the team, the state and the city of Minneapolis, which spells out contributions from all three for construction -- $427 million from the team, $398 million from the state and $150 million from the city. It expands charitable gambling to include electronic games, with the additional tax revenue to be used for the state's share.

Several legislators want to change the funding source or increase the team's contribution, so the "term sheet" bill may not survive unscathed. If the House passes the bill, it must go to the Senate, probably Tuesday at the earliest. If the two versions differ, a conference committee would have to approve compromise language. That version would then have to go back to the House and Senate and to Dayton for his signature.

An ardent stadium supporter, Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, summed up the intertwining of the tax and stadium bills this way on Twitter: "My prediction is that Gov Dayton's swift veto of the tax bill will severely harm the stadium bill's chance of passing. Not good."

Staff Writer Mike Kaszuba contributed to this report. Jim Ragsdale • 651-925-5042

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