Gov. Mark Dayton, the Capitol's No. 1 Vikings stadium supporter, said if the project doesn't make it to the finish line this year, it must succeed in 2013.
"We've got to get a stadium next year or the Vikings will leave," Dayton said at a morning news conference, following a meeting with legislative leaders. While he said he holds out some hope of reviving the project this session, he is beginning to think in terms of next year.
"If we don't get it this session, we will get it next session," he said.
On Monday night, the House Government Operations and Elections Committee voted down the project by a 9-6 vote. With perhaps as little as two weeks left in the session, the project has yet to show signs of life.
"I'm very disappointed," Dayton said. He said he is worried about "thousands of unemployed Minnesotans" who could be put back to work by the stadium project.
In Monday's vote, only one member of Dayton's DFL party, Rep. Michael Nelson of Brooklyn Park, voted for the bill, joining five Republican members. That angered Zellers, who is not leading the charge on the stadium but who has said the bill must draw bipartisan support to move forward.
"We can't pass the stadium by ourselves in the Republican caucus," said Zellers. "This is going to have to be a bipartisan approach. Last night, it clearly was not. Now, I'd say it's up to the governor and the Democrat leader in the House if they want to go forward, because very clearly last night, they weren't interested in passing the bill out of committee without recommendation."
"This is up to the governor and the Democrat minority leader," he said of the future of the stadium bill. "If I was the governor, I'd be livid; if I was big labor, I'd be really, really livid."
Dayton expressed frustration with Minneapolis legislators and City Council members who have opposed the project, and suggested the project could go elsewhere next year.
""There's plenty of blame to go around," Dayton said. "We'll see if it's possible to do something this session," he said. "Stay tuned."
Dayton said at a breakfast with DFL legislative leaders Monday, he was asked to contact some DFL committee members to urge their support for the stadium. "I talked to one of them; he said he was going to be helpful, and wasn't," Dayton said, not naming the House member. Another call to a legislator was not returned, he said.
He said he now believes his original plan to hold a special session last Thanksgiving to deal with the stadium issue was right. Now, at the end of a complicated session, he said, "you get just this kind of behavior -- everybody angling for their own self-interest, trading this vote off for that vote...."
He said he will continue to work for the project this session.
"If it doesn't work out, we'll get it next year," he said. "If Minneapolis doesn't want it -- most of their legislators are opposed to it, half of the City Council, almost half, is opposed to it, so if Minneapolis doesn't want it ... then somewhere else, Arden Hills, some other site in Minnesota..."
"We can't have it both ways. We can't not do a new stadium and have the Vikings remain here for very long," he said.
Referring to next session, he said, "The difficult takes a while -- the impossible just takes a little longer.We'll get it next session ... it'll probably be a better bill, it might be a better location, and a better result.... We'll learn from this session and go on...."
Meanwhile, Dayton and legislative leaders continue to discuss possibilities for tax relief, and plan to meet again later Tuesday.