Dayton working on new Vikings stadium funding plan

  • Article by: BAIRD HELGESON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 9, 2013 - 6:11 AM

Dayton, legislative leaders target tax loopholes but not new casinos.

 Gov. Mark Dayton is considering closing some tax loopholes to help pay the state’s share of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium.

Dayton’s administration would not reveal more details of the proposal but said the new plan will not include any expansion of gambling or new casinos.

“We are looking at a couple options, but we don’t have it nailed down,” Dayton said Wednesday.

House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, have discussed the issue with Dayton but also declined to outline what revenue streams the governor is considering. House Taxes Committee Chairwoman Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, said she did not know more details of the plan.

State leaders have been scrambling ever since revenue from new electronic pulltabs and bingo games started coming in dramatically below projections. The state is on the hook for $348 million of the new stadium and must come up with about $30 million a year under the financing plan.

The governor said the proposal does not include a plan to impose a new tax on sports memorabilia, which is already in legislative budget bills.

Dayton said he and legislative leaders want a backup source that is “absolutely secure and absolutely sufficient to cover whatever the shortfall is with the e-pulltabs and e-bingo.”

“We are pleased to hear that it will not impact the Vikings’ revenue streams and that it would be consistent with the agreement negotiated in 2012,” said Lester Bagley, vice president of stadium development for the Vikings.

Dayton said it is important for investors and for the integrity of the project to ensure that funding sources are reliable and stable. The governor said he remains convinced electronic pulltab and bingo revenue will improve, but he does not want doubts lingering.

State Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, a Minneapolis DFLer who serves on a legislative commission overseeing stadium issues, said he was not aware of Dayton’s new funding plan.

“We are committed to reviewing every step, from revenue to design, and we always keep looking at funding and making sure everything is on par and moving in the right direction,” Champion said.

Republican Sen. Julie Rosen, who also serves on the stadium commission, said she was not aware of the new funding plan.

Any backup solution would most likely require legislative approval in this session, which ends in 12 days. Legislators are racing to complete their primary task: Piecing together a multibillion-dollar, two-year state budget. In the past, Dayton has insisted that the state’s share of the nearly $1 billion stadium not come from the state’s general fund.

“I am surprised, and I hope it is something that works,” said Rosen, of Fairmont, referring to the last-minute emergency of a backup funding source.

The stadium funding plan already has two other backups: A sports-themed Minnesota Lottery game and a tax on stadium suites. But those don’t bring in a lot of money and likely would not make up the gap left by the electronic pulltabs and bingo.

The Vikings and state officials expect to break ground on the new stadium after the upcoming football season. The new stadium will open for the 2016 season on the site of the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis. The team will play at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium while the new facility is being built.

Dayton announced the new revenue possibilities just days before the high-profile community unveiling of the design of the new stadium.

The governor said he has seen sketches of the new facility and said of the design, “It’s very impressive.”

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