All seven St. Paul City Council members let themselves be heard Wednesday: No countywide tax for a Minnesota Vikings stadium.
The resolution, adopted with minimal discussion, opposed a Ramsey County half-cent sales tax increase that would help pay for a new $1 billion stadium in Arden Hills. The action merely signals the council's concerns without compelling the Legislature or the County Board to do anything.
Council Member Pat Harris said of the Vikings-Ramsey County plan, "There's no return back to our community. ... It doesn't make sense for St. Paul."
The resolution opposed a deal between the Vikings and Ramsey County for a stadium at a former munitions site at the junction of Interstate 35W and Hwy. 10. Through the sales tax, the county would be expected to pay $350 million. The Vikings would pay $407 million and the state $300 million through an as-yet-undetermined revenue source. Also at issue: who would pay millions in road upgrades near the site.
Before the vote, council President Kathy Lantry made a huge correction to the resolution, saying that the sales tax increase was comparable to a 17 percent city levy increase. The proposal on Tuesday said that the increase was akin to a 173 percent levy increase. An aide attributed the error to a missing decimal point.
Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said the team appreciated St. Paul's concern, but "Ramsey County is our local partner. ... They stepped up. What's difficult in a stadium issue is providing leadership."
The proposal is in limbo as long as the state budget remains under discussion at the Capitol.
A handful of Vikings fans attended the council meeting, but no one was allowed to speak before the vote. Open-government crusader Rich Neumeister chided as "atrocious" the council's lack of a public hearing. "They're shutting out the public just like the Legislature [did]," Neumeister said.
The council's resolution noted that St. Paul would contribute $165 million of the county's portion of the stadium bill -- money collected under the county tax -- even as the city faces cuts in state aid used for essential services such as police, fire, parks and libraries.
Rochelle Olson • 651-735-9749