A timeout was called in the Vikings stadium debate at the Capitol Thursday as legislative leaders pressed for agreement on business tax cuts and capital projects before moving for floor votes on the $1 billion football palace.
The stadium bill slowed to a halt in the House, where it awaits action on the floor, and in the Senate, where it is to be heard by the Taxes Committee. Republican leaders in both houses say they want to refocus debate on other priorities.
"This is my priority, trying to work out with the governor, the minority leaders and the majority leaders here what we're going to do about the bonding and tax bills," said Senate Taxes Committee Chairwoman Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen. She spoke after a meeting with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders.
Meanwhile, a group of GOP lawmakers spoke out against the preferred funding source for the state's stadium share -- tax revenue from electronic pulltabs and bingo games. Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, and Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, questioned how much money the new games will bring in. Benson said installing thousands of additional gambling devices would carry a social cost.
"As a society, we need to ask ourselves if we really want to introduce a whole new generation of Minnesotans to the addiction of gambling," he said.
Ortman had been expected to hear the Vikings bill in her committee on Thursday, but it was pushed back to Friday afternoon. House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, would not entertain a question about when the House would act on the stadium bill. "That's not what we were here to talk about," he said following the meeting with Dayton.
Taxes and bonding
The two issues Republican leaders sought to focus on -- taxes and bonding -- are far from resolved.
Republicans seek to reduce property taxes on businesses, saying the levies deter economic expansion and job growth. They also have sought other income and business-tax changes. Dayton has objected to using the newly replenished reserves to pay for the reductions.
On bonding, DFL leaders offered a proposal that was under the governor's $775 million figure but above the Republican's $500 million limit, which Republicans said would be very difficult. Among the disputes is the amount to be set aside for restoring the Capitol.
The stadium, bonding and tax bills are among the last major bills outstanding in a session that Zellers would like to end early next week. It is a time in the session when the governor and legislative leaders traditionally try to work out a "global" agreement on remaining issues.
"It's simply a process of getting each others' numbers, trying to come to some level of agreement," said Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester. "The process of negotiations is occurring ... we'll work towards, hopefully, a common solution."
This year, however, none of the big issues has to be passed for the state to function, and Republican legislative leaders could adjourn the session without acting if they can't reach an agreement with the governor.
Staff writers Baird Helgeson and Rachel E. Stassen-Berger contributed to this report. Jim Ragsdale • 651-925-5042