Taxpayers League presses City Council to reject stadium

MINNEAPOLIS -- Stadium opponents are increasing the pressure on Minneapolis City Council members with afinal, decisivevote on the plan fast approaching.

Phil Krinkie, the president of theTaxpayers League of Minnesota, released results of a survey Wednesday in an effort to show that council members who support the stadium are out of step with local voters.

"Rather than helping fund an individual who can afford a $19 million condo in New York," Krinkietold reporters. "It seems to me the priority for the Minneapolis City Council people should be helping fund and take care of the citizens of Minneapolis."

In all 743 of those 1,331 Minneapolis residents surveyed, or 55 percent, said they do not support city tax dollars going to the Vikings stadium. It's important to note, however, that it was not scientific poll with traditional random sampling techniques.

The call list from the poll came from the rolls of those who voted in the Minneapolis city election in 2009. Those respondents who opposed the stadium plan were then offered a chance to be patched in directly to the voice mail boxes of council members.

The stadium bill passed by lawmakers on the final day the 2012 session, and signed into law by Governor Dayton, calls for the City of Minneapolis to pay $150 million toward the $975 million construction cost.

The bill also anticipates that Minneapolis will spend an additional $189 million over the first 30 years of the project, for a total of $339 million. The city's share will be financed with local sales taxes and hospitality taxes currently being used to finance improvements to the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The Taxpayer League's survey, however, asked people if they support spending $675 million in tax dollars for the stadium. That's the total bill if one calculates interest on the revenue appropriation bonds over 30 years.

Critics of the survey told KARE 11 that was a misleading figure, and compared it toadding 30 years' worth of mortgagefinancing costs when describing how much a person paid for a house.

It's also worth noting that thecurrent convention center taxis projected to generate $2.6 billionduring the same 30-year period.Thatwill allow theCity to continue supporting the convention center, in addition to revamping the Target Center, currently the home of the NBA'sTimberwolves.

Council Supporters

Seven members of that board signed a letter expressing support for the stadium deal, while six declinedto sign it. Opponents are hoping to persuade one of those supporters to flip sides before Friday's critical council vote.

Don Samuels, one of the council members who supports the deal, said he believes the project will generate construction jobs and ongoing employment. He said the city's minority hiring stipulation will ensure that people in more depressed areas of the city will benefit.

Beyond that Samuels said a modern facility will help the city maintain its standing in the eyes of the nation.

"All over the country youhear about people who know the Vikings, and don't know Minneapolis. And that draws their attention to our city," Samuels told KARE.

"It's a magnet. It's an asset. It's an advertisement for our city. And it's the kind of a facility that elevates our profile, as having the top class amenities."

He said it's not fair for those who don't typically support housing for the poor andpublic schools to roll those options out as part of a stadium debate.

"We already spend money on housing and leverage state and federal grants to do that, and if the State of Minnesota has more housing money to offer us we'll take it," Samuels remarked.

"If we think that education is more important than a stadium, why haven't we all sat down together and created a billion dollar educational program? Why wait until the stadium comes up to compare it to education?"

Legal hurdle

If the city council approves the stadium, the project won't begin in earnest until the Minnesota Supreme Court rules on the untested financing plan the State is relying on to pay for its $348 million share of the project.

Rather than using general obligation bonds, backed by traditional state tax revenue, the plans calls for the state to use appropriations bonds that are backed by taxes on new electronic pull-tab gaming machines.

The High Court must decide whether that funding mechanism is within the Legislature's constitutional powers. If the court rules against the appropriations bonds, statelawmakers would have to pass a new stadium bill.

The issue first arose earlier in the year, when lawmakers issued $750 million in tobacco appropriations bonds. Those notes are to repaid with future proceeds of theState's 1998 lawsuitsettlement with the major tobacco companies.

Lawmakers used that $750 millionto close the closed the Fiscal 2012-2013 budget gap, and end a budget stalemate that had produced the longest government shutdown in state history.

However, when then-Governor Tim Pawlenty proposed tobacco appropriations bonds in 2010the idea was flatly criticized by Attorney General Lori Swanson.

"A court would need to participate in a certain level of legal gymnastics to sustain the borrowing contemplated by the Tobacco Appropriation Bonds as constitutional in light of the balanced budget requirement in the Minnesota Constitution," Swanson said in a legal opinion in 2010.


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