Garofalo is lone local House member to vote for Vikings stadium bill
The voice of Minnesota was heard tonight, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said after the House passed a Vikings stadium bill Monday on a bipartisan 73-to-58 vote.
It was a stronger vote than anyone anticipated, Dayton said shortly after conclusion of the eight-hour House floor debate.
“That’s a great vote,” Dayton said. “This is a huge step forward.”
Legislators in the Sun Thisweek and Tribune coverage area all voted against the bill, except for Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, who successfully amended the bill Monday.
The Dakota County Republicans voting no were Doug Wardlow, Diane Anderson, both of Eagan; Pam Myhra, Burnsville; Mary Liz Holberg, Lakeville; Tara Mack, Apple Valley, and Kurt Bills, Rosemount.
Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, House Vikings stadium author, saw his stadium bill leave the House floor largely intact.
The most significant change was brought by Garofalo who amended the bill to lower the state’s commitment toward stadium construction costs from about $400 million to $300 million.
“It’s not an easy decision,” Garofalo said, adding that it’s not a black and white issue.
Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, who also voted for the bill, thought Garofalo’s amendment enticed some undecided lawmakers to support the bill.
Abeler, for one, believes leaving the stadium issue to fester without a resolution eventually would have the Vikings leaving Minnesota.
“It’s always a bad thing to have an unhappy tenant,” he said.
It’s was expected that Sen. Julie Rosen’s Vikings stadium bill would be heard on the Republican Senate floor Tuesday as this edition went to press.
Rosen after the House vote could be seen hugging Lanning and congratulating her stadium colleague in the House.
But the stadium struggle continues, Dayton said.
“Our work is not done,” he told a group of stadium supporters gathered in Governor’s Reception Room.
“Any one of these is fatal,” he said upcoming stadium votes.
One amendment in the House that touched the guts of Lanning’s stadium bill was offered by Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, who proposed removing the charitable gaming electronic pull-tabs and bingo provisions from the bill and replacing them with a menu of user fees.
Gambling unfairly exploits people who often are least able to afford losing money, Benson argued.
Lanning countered by arguing that Benson’s proposed 9.98 percent surcharge provision would mean those buying hot dogs or Vikings jerseys at the stadium would be looking at sales taxes as high as 18 percent.
“It creates some real problems,” Lanning said.
Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park, was conflicted about Benson’s amendment.
While he isn’t wild about gambling, the Benson’s delete-all amendment would get rid of Garofalo’s amendment, Nelson explained.
Nelson expressed worry that the state would try to get by as cheaply as possible on the stadium.
That tactic helped create the current mess, he argued.
“Because we built it (the Metrodome) 30 years ago on the cheap, we’re looking at replacing it,” Nelson said.
He said he didn’t want to bequeath to future lawmakers another stadium issue.
Benson’s amendment failed on a 57-to-74 vote.
Many of the 40 amendments offered by lawmakers failed on the House floor, but not all.
Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, successfully amended the bill to increase the “claw back” or amount of money the state would reap from the sale of the football team should Vikings ownership choose to sell.
Under Simon’s amendment, the claw back would start at 25 percent, dropping 1 percent per year thereafter.
Simon, whose father worked as an agent for professional athletes, had a saying that professional sports teams will always plead poverty, his son recalled.
But it’s just hardheaded business, Simon explained.
Increasing the claw back would be a good negotiation tool for House Republicans to bring into conference committee, Simon argued.
“I want to make sure the Vikings have skin in the game permanently,” he said.
A number of lawmakers – including Garofalo – urged colleagues to vote for the stadium bill to move the legislation forward in the process.
Currently, the House stadium bill does not contain the referendum exemption for the City of Minneapolis that some Republican lawmakers found unacceptable.
The bill contains “blink-on” backup revenue provisions, designed to kick in if charitable gaming revenues fall short.
These include a surcharge on stadium box seats, the possible siphoning of excess Hennepin County Twins’ ballpark revenues — a big enough menu to capture an additional $10 million a year if needed, explained Lanning.
Scores of Vikings stadium supporters and union members rallied at the State Capitol on Monday prior to and during the stadium debate.
For a time colorful array boxed the entrance to the House chamber, renewing their chants and cheers every time the doors would draw back to let people in and out of the chamber.
“There’s so much support and enthusiasm for the stadium,” Dayton said after a brief appearance at pro-stadium rally in the Capitol rotunda.
But Dayton was tight-lipped about the future prospects of the stadium initiative.
“It’s too early for me to say,” he said of the impact of Garofalo’s amendment.
But Dayton was buoyed by the outcome of the House vote, thanking lawmakers who voted for the bill as well as House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, and House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, for allowing the vote to take place.