Vikings stadium bill tiptoes through political minefield

8:00 PM, Apr 3, 2012   |    comments
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  • ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Vikings stadium bill made history Monday night when it passed its first committee test, but many legislative hurdles await the plan in the coming days and weeks.

    Even the project's top booster at the Capitol, Gov. Mark Dayton, wouldn't predict how the story will end. In fact, it's still not clear when the 2012 will end, with some lawmakers asking leaders to call it quits before Good Friday.

    "So it's still a labyrinth that it's trying to work it's way through," Dayton told reporters Tuesday morning, when asked to guess whether the stadium proposal would garner enough votes to make it to his desk.

    "It comes down to the two leaders, the Speaker and the Majority Leader in the Senate. I mean they can't guarantee its approval, but they can certainly guarantee it's failure."

    Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley told KARE he's encouraged by the fact the bill made it out of the House Commerce committee, and is likely to be heard in two other committees soon.

    The House committee revamped the bill somewhat, to provide a cushion in case electronic pull-tabs, the primary funding source for the state's share of the project, don't generate enough revenue to retire the bonds.

    Those revenue streams would "blink on" only if pull-tabs don't pull their weight financially. They include:

    • 10 percent tax on luxury suites and boxes
    • Sports-themed State Lottery game
    • Capturing excess Hennepin County ballpark taxes
    • A surcharge on tickets for Vikings games

    Bagley said the team would have trouble accepting the tax on luxury suites and the ticket surcharge.

    "We have concerns with, generally, asking the team or requiring the team to be the back-stop for the state's contribution," Bagley told the Commerce Committee Monday night.

    He said the term sheet the team drew up during months of negotiations with the state and the city of Minneapolis made it clear the team's offer was contingent on getting to capture the revenues from NFL games held there.

    "The $427 million up-front and the $13 million per year were negotiated, contingent upon no increase in ticket tax, as well as the team receiving the revenues from the facility."

    The panel approved a separate bill, authored by Rep. John Kriesel, that would raise $72 million per year through electronic pull-tabs, and $16 million per year with a sports-themed tip boards, both of which would be played in local bars and cafes.

    His bill envisions dividing that $88 million pot two ways, funneling $52 million per year to the stadium and $36 million to the charitable gambling organizations.

    Allied Charities of Minnesota proposed electronic pull-tabs originally as new funding source for the charities, before that form of gambling became part of the stadium puzzle.

    Gov. Dayton continued Tuesday to express doubts about another stadium funding backstop that emerged over the weekend.  He said similar tip board were blocked by Attorney General's rulings in 1995 and 2002, because they were seen as violations of federal law.

    "When the state issues bonds, you've got to have an absolutely reliable source of financing for them," Dayton explained. "I don't think this would qualify under any circumstances because the legality would have to be tested."

    Kriesel and King Wilson, who heads Allied Charities, contend this version of tip board would be legal because it's based on the numerals in sports scores rather than the outcomes of the games.

    (Copyright 2012 KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be publushed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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