Efforts to pass a Minnesota Vikings stadium plan took an unexpected turn on Tuesday. A group of Republican legislators floated a new proposal that would remove the roof in the current stadium plan, reducing the cost and allowing the state to change the source of its financial contribution, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The new proposal reduced the cost by taking off the roof, leaving the stadium "roof-ready" for a future addition. To pay for the reduced contribution, the new proposal folds it into a larger bonding bill being debated in the legislature. Under the original proposal, the state contribution came from new gaming revenues.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton was critical of the idea when speaking to the press on Tuesday afternoon. Dayton criticized the plan, calling it a "gimmick."
State Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said that a stadium must have a roof on it, but indicated a willingness to listen to details on a new funding plan in an effort to strike a deal on the stadium. Rosen sponsored the original stadium bill in the Minnesota Senate.
A second tempest circled as accusations flew about the Vikings being involved in secret negotiations around the "roof-ready" plan. The team denied that and revealed that they had been asked in the last day by Republican House Majority Leader Matt Dean for information and feedback about the plan. According to Tom Hauser of KSTP in the Twin Cities, Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs and stadium development, said that the team does not support changing the stadium concept laid out in the original bill.
Dayton took a stand against leaving off the roof because it eliminates the possibilities for year-round usage, including the potential to host a future Super Bowl. The governor has rallied support for the stadium bill, in part, by selling it as an engine of economic growth.
Paying for the stadium out of the bonding bill could be more palatable for getting a stadium plan passed. Republicans in the state legislature are reluctant to create new revenue streams to help pay for the stadium. The bonding plan also eliminated the need to expanded gambling in the state, which appeals across the isle.
Republican leaders emphasized in a Tuesday afternoon press conference that their new plan has broad support among members of their party in both the Minnesota House and Senate, according to Jeff Goldberg of Fox 9.
In reality it looks like the stadium bill is being used as a bargaining chip. The legislature extended its session on Monday with three major issues still on the table: the stadium plan, the bonding bill and a tax bill.
The Governor has voiced opposition to the Republican tax plan, which pay for some $200 million in tax breaks, including a freeze on business property taxes, by using money in the state's reserve fund. Republicans control both the House and Senate. Gov. Dayton has opposed the tax bill on the basis that it raises the deficit.
The bonding bill would borrow money, by issuing bonds, to pay for infrastructure, public works and other projects with an eye toward economic stimulus. Gov. Dayton and members of his DFL party have pressed for a larger bonding bill.
The state legislature can continue its current session through May 21, though all sides have stated a preference for wrapping up sooner. 2012 is an election year.