House Speaker Kurt Zellers said Friday that the proposal for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium was seriously flawed, but said it was “way too early” to declare the project politically dead at the state Capitol this year.
“You cannot rush something this detailed and this intricate through in a short amount of time,” said Zellers. “We will not leave here with a bad deal for the taxpayers.”
The Republican House leader again minimized his importance to the stadium’s legislative chances, but indicated he may say later in the day whether he would grant the project a procedural exemption to keep it alive.
Unless the stadium plan is passed by a legislative committee Friday – there are no hearings set – it would need a special exemption in the House and Senate to remain alive. While Senate Majority Leader David Senjem has indicated he will grant the exemption, Zellers continued Friday morning to sidestep whether he would also do so.
“We’ll see,” Zellers said Friday, responding to whether he would issue a statement later in the day.
Zellers does not have to act Friday, but could grant the special exemption in the coming weeks. But Zellers also said Friday the Legislature was on track to adjourn in late April, giving stadium negotiators just weeks to push through a complicated public subsidy package for the $975 million project.
At one point Friday, Zellers was asked whether he could recall major legislation passing without the support of a House speaker. "I can't think of anything off the top of my head, but I'm sure there has been," said Zellers, who then added that legislators were considering many other pieces of major legislation besides the stadium.
Zellers however said the stadium proposal had larger problems than whether he would help pass it. He said the project still did not have the support of the Minneapolis City Council – the new stadium would be built in downtown Minneapolis. He also said that funding the state’s $398 million share of the stadium with money from electronic bingo and pull tabs, and backing up any revenue short fall with state general fund money, would not get many legislative votes.
“Until there are some very significant questions answered, I think the [procedural exemptions] are the least of the questions to be answered,” he said.
The stadium project would be built at the site of the Metrodome, where the team has played since the early 1980s. The project would be built with $427 million from the Vikings, $398 million from the state and $150 million from the city. In addition, the team would contribute $327 million and the city another $189 million in operational costs.