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Minnesota's three gubernatorial candidates disagreed on the budget and the state's role investing in statewide building projects Wednesday at a forum filled with construction and transportation leaders.
But the candidates agreed that the state should be a player in building the Minnesota Vikings a new stadium.
DFLer Mark Dayton said he would support a $1 billion bonding bill to kick-start the state's lagging construction industry and create road and building projects of lasting benefit to Minnesotans.
Independence Party candidate Tom Horner touted his $400 million borrowing proposal, which he would use for roads, bridges and expanded regional convention centers.
Republican Tom Emmer, who has voted against all six borrowing bills in his term as a legislator, offered no dollar amount, but said he would consider borrowing for projects with regional and statewide significance.
The 90-minute forum at the Northland Inn in Brooklyn Park drew about 300 people and was the second of three gubernatorial debates this week. Another debate on jobs is scheduled for Thursday morning in Golden Valley.
Dayton and Horner, who have both revealed detailed plans for raising taxes and cutting spending to resolve the state's $6 billion deficit, continued to hammer at Emmer for failing to offer a budget plan less than 10 weeks from Election Day.
Emmer campaign officials have said they will release his budget plan sometime in the coming weeks.
With their budget plans now on full display, Horner and Dayton also took aim at each other.
Horner accused Dayton of promising billions in new health care and education spending without saying how he would pay for it.
Dayton said Horner's budget has more than 20 references to "redesign" of state government as a means of paring the deficit, yet doesn't outline what the redesign will be.
Dayton joked that in the future he'll just "invoke" redesign to dodge dicey budget questions.
All candidates agreed that the state needs to be a partner in building a new stadium for the Vikings. The NFL team's Metrodome lease expires after the 2011 season and the owners have said they need a new stadium for the team to be viable in Minnesota.
Horner wants the Vikings to pay 40 percent of the cost for a new stadium, which he said is a higher percent than some other teams have paid for their new facilities. He also said the Vikings should get all stadium revenue from their events, but that the public should get the revenue from non-team events, such as concerts and monster truck pulls.
Horner has proposed adding slot machines at the state's two horse racing tracks to pay the state's share of the new stadium.
Dayton said he looks at the stadium like any other economic development project with statewide significance: If there's a clear benefit for Minnesotans, he'd support it.
He said he believes there is a real threat that the Vikings would move to Los Angeles or another city if no stadium is built. He noted, however, that team owners have made no threat to move the team.
"I'd work with all entities to put together a deal," Dayton said.
Emmer said "I want a Vikings stadium," but he is cool to using the state's general funds. Without saying he supported the idea, Emmer talked about a proposal that failed in the Legislature last winter. Under that plan, the team would pay the new stadium debt for the first 10 years. After that, the hospitality tax money used for Minneapolis' convention center would be diverted to pay for the new stadium.
"I really appreciate that they were all in favor of the construction of the Vikings stadium," said Heidi Gunderson, with Woody's Rebar in Vadnais Heights. "As a construction worker, I think it's really important to our future."
Baird Helgeson • 651-222-1288