The complex issue of financing a Vikings stadium and the state's involvement in it has stirred a deep and often emotional debate among Minnesotans.
As the Senate's lead among the team owners, Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers of both parties, I have been on the receiving end of some interesting commentary since I took up this discussion over a year ago.
But I have also seen the team spirit of Minnesota arise, and I know that a workable solution is within reach.
Legislators and the governor were elected to solve problems. But the problem here is not satisfying the team's need for a new stadium, but rather one of working within a unique situation to solve a problem that affects many Minnesotans.
That means avoiding the loss of a team that is part of the fabric and history of our state. In doing so, we can also create jobs in an industry with high unemployment, maintain and even increase tax base in some areas, and preserve 50 years of "Purple Pride."
The current facility used by the Minnesota Vikings is no longer feasible or competitive, and the team is seeking the commitment of a public-private partnership for a new multi-use facility before their lease ends in January.
In the past, a state or local partner has contributed toward other multi-use facilities using a variety of financing tools and sharing costs. But after years of billion-dollar state spending deficits, lawmakers and citizens are both more cautious about any use of public dollars.
While we would like to think the Vikings would never leave the state, it is a stark possibility. We only need to look at recent moves like the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis or Cleveland Browns to Baltimore for examples.
We have to also consider that the team isn't an ordinary business and that the loss means our tax base would also suffer from the loss of Minnesota jobs and investment.
Besides more than $21 million in tax revenue and 2,800 full- and part-time jobs, Minnesota stands to lose additional businesses that operate in connection with NFL games; national attention, and the immeasurable "quality of life" that goes with being a big-league city.
Conversely, estimates show the public investment in a new stadium would give our economy a boost. It is estimated that construction of a stadium could support 13,000 jobs for three years, including 7,500 in construction trades.
In an area that is currently experiencing nearly 20 percent unemployment, this type of project would be a significant boost for workers.
There are many misconceptions that have surrounded this debate. One is that the team owners aren't carrying their share of the load.
With current building cost estimates, the team payment would be the third-largest private contribution in NFL history for a publicly (state) owned facility available for amateur sports and community events, with the team covering $20 million annually of ongoing operating and capital expenses as well as all municipal services (security, fire prevention) related to the facility.
All NFL stadiums are a public-private partnership, and the owners of the Minnesota Vikings are working hard to keep the team in purple, and in Minnesota.
Lawmakers have available a range of nontax financing options and user fees that will rely primarily on those who use the stadium and attend Vikings games.
But without question, there will be no onerous statewide tax, and those not wanting to contribute will not be forced into doing so. Each proposal, and any others that arise, will be given public hearings and open legislative debate.
Minnesota is filled with a variety of people and ideas: Some are lifelong fans who live to wear the purple on Sunday afternoon; others do not. Some are liberal, some conservative. But this difference is what has made Minnesota great. In the end, we come together and work it out.
In the end, we will have met common goals and created much-needed jobs in a tough time.
Special circumstances are needed for legislation, and I have worked hard to assure a solid return on any public investment. I commend the governor for his work to bring leaders together on this issue.
A solution will only be accomplished with bipartisan support and a wide view of Minnesota's social and economic landscape.
* * *
Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, is a member of the Minnesota Senate.