Vikings stadium bill advances to the House floor
Vote expected this week on embattled Minneapolis plan
The Vikings’ stadium bill is moving to the House floor for the first time.
The House Ways and Means Committee blew a breath of life into the stalled Vikings’ stadium initiative in the Republican House on April 23 through two key votes.
The committee amended a Vikings’ stadium provision onto a charitable gambling bill Monday evening.
The move is significant, because House Vikings’ stadium bill author Rep. Morrie Lanning’s bill failed in the House Government Operations and Elections Committee a week ago.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, last week described the bill as “essentially dead,” but noted that there are ways of reviving dead bills.
The resuscitation of the stadium bill in the Ways and Means Committee was done only after lengthy debate.
Several committee members questioned the legislation in fundamental ways.
Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina, in an exchange with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak over the city’s contribution toward construction of the $975 million Vikings’ stadium in Minneapolis, suggested a hole existed in the mayor’s logic.
Rybak argued that since the state controlled the various Minneapolis local sales taxes that would be used in stadium financing, that rendered inapplicable Minneapolis City Charter language concerning a required city referendum for stadium expenditures in excess of $10 million.
Downey countered that if the state controls these sales taxes, why does the city count them as part of its $150 million contribution toward the stadium?
Minneapolis has the same attitude toward local sales taxes collected in Minneapolis that the city of Edina would have toward local sales taxes collected in that city, Rybak answered.
Because Lanning, R-Moorhead, retained changes made to his stadium bill last week in the House House Government Operations and Elections Committee, a Minneapolis City Charter exemption, which was removed in that committee, is still out of the bill.
Rybak argued the provision wasn’t needed in the first place.
Another sharp questioner of the bill was Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, who argued the projected electronic charitable gambling revenues the state looks to cover its $38 million a year stadium bonding debt service were essentially fictitious.
“It’s (debt service) going to be back on the State of Minnesota,” said Hackbarth, arguing there’s no real history of electronic charitable gambling on which estimates can be made.
The same hyper-skepticism that Hackbarth took toward electronic pull-tabs and bingo, Lanning argued, could be leveled against any form of gambling.
Hackbarth, a racino advocate, argued that wasn’t true at all.
Racino has a well documented revenue history, he argued.
“I just want to make it crystal clear what you’re voting for in this bill,” Hackbarth said.
Dayton Administration officials backed the estimates.
“The methodology was very careful,” Commissioner of Revenue Myron Frans said.
Similar expressions of confidence were voiced by others.
“What’s being proposed in Minnesota is a different apple,” said Minnesota Gambling Control Board Executive Director Tom Barrett to the experience with electronic charitable gambling experienced in Iowa.
Lanning noted that five “blink-on” provisions exist in his bill that could kick in extra revenue should projected gambling dollars fall short.
Several attempts were made in Ways and Means to amend the stadium bill.
The committee moved the stadium bill to the House floor without recommendation.
Lanning, in thanking the committee, spoke of having the up or down House floor vote on the legislation many people desire.
Dayton has been calling for such a vote for months.
The Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee was scheduled to hear Sen. Julie Rosen’s Vikings stadium legislation Tuesday.
That bill broke free of a Senate committee last Friday after being snared by a lack of votes for weeks.