A compromise package to subsidize a $1 billion Minneapolis stadium project ran into a 9-6 wall of opposition on Monday, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The state's House Government Operations Committee voted against the package delicately pieced together by Gov. Mark Dayton, the Minnesota Vikings and a handful of other supporters on both sides of the aisle. With the legislative session nearing its end for the year, the proposal is all but dead.
At issue was the plan's use of taxpayer dollars to subsidize a part of the project's total cost. According to the plan, $398 million would come from state gambling taxes, $150 million from Minneapolis sales taxes and $427 million from the Vikings and the NFL. The plan bypassed a requirement for a public vote to approve state dollars in excess of $10 million for stadium projects or other sports facilities.
The argument of using state and city revenues took on a familiar tone, encapsulated in a question from Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City.
"Why should the state of Minnesota contribute to a stadium for a billionaire owner?"
Questions and skepticism came from both parties.
''How do we as representatives of public taxpayers, how do we know we're getting a good deal?'' Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, asked.
Winkler and a number of other representatives from Minneapolis and the surrounding area voted against the proposal, which carried an election-year risk of directing local tax dollars to a stadium project without wider public approval. Five members of the state's Democratic Farm Labor party and four Republicans voted against the bill.
In the Senate, the proposal stalled last month when a Senate panel left it languishing due to a lack of support. If the bill has any chance of getting through during this legislative session, it would have to come through action on the Senate bill.
The Vikings and the bill's supporters sounded a defeated tone after the vote, but vowed to continue their efforts to lobby support for the bill.
The new stadium would replace the Vikings' current home, the aging Metrodome, with a facility on par with the league's other gilded palaces. Complicating the situation in Minnesota is the progress on a stadium project in downtown Los Angeles.
Led by the AEG entertainment company, Farmers Field recently presented an environmental impact report to the city of Los Angeles, the first step in clearing the necessary hurdles to start construction, which could begin as early as 2013. Nobody in Minnesota has yet raised the specter of moving, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been clear in his desire to keep teams where they are. Nevertheless, an open space in LA could eventually figure into the negotiations for a new stadium in Minneapolis.
The Vikings will play the 2012 season in the Metrodome, but they are not operating on a lease agreement and have no plans to sign a new one.