Stadium, bonding set for legislative votes
ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Legislature is going back to its original Vikings stadium proposal, scheduled for a Monday vote, and plans a public works financing bill vote.
The two items are the remaining sticking points to ending the 2012 session, and no one knows if they have the votes to pass.
As union workers rallied for stadium and public works bills this morning, Republican legislative leaders announced their plan to build a stadium with less state money and without gambling funds had failed.
House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, has proposed a stadium with something more than $250 million of state general tax dollars, but requiring more than the $427 million the Vikings were willing to contribute to a $975 million facility.
"We met several hours yesterday and came very close," Dean said today, but in the end the plan to use general tax dollars would not fly.
Instead, the original plan offered by Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, and Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, returned as the prime proposal. The $398 million in state funding it includes would come from allowing electronic pulltabs and bingo for chartable gambling games. The theory is that electronic games would pull in more players, and produce more state taxes.
Minnesota Management and Budget, the state finance agency, told GOP leaders that the plan could not be funded by general tax money, ending the proposal.
Gov. Mark Dayton, who harshly criticized the plan the last two days, softened today.
"I am very pleased that the Republican legislative leaders have agreed to my request for up-or-down votes in both bodies on a new 'people's stadium' that would provide jobs for several thousand Minnesotans and keep the Vikings here," Dayton said in a statement. "Now everyone will be able to hold legislators accountable for that momentous decision."
Dayton said he will continue to push for the Lanning-Rosen plan and urged Minnesotans to urge their legislators to support it, too.
In a mid-day announcement, GOP leaders also said they would consider a $496 million public works finance bill separate from the stadium.
The Senate today was to debate a Republican-written tax bill the Democrat Dayton opposes and then the public works bill, to be funded by the state selling bonds. The bonding bill focuses on fixing roads, sewer systems, colleges and other state facilities, but details were not immediately available.
The bonding will Republican leaders put forth would not include money for civic centers in Rochester, Mankato or St. Cloud. Some leader in those communities were disappointed and urged their lawmakers to oppose the bill, making its already-questionable passage even more in doubt.
The bill would include about $77 million to begin renovating the state Capitol. That is down from $221 million House leaders wanted, but up from $25 million the Senate bill included.
"We can't pass a bonding bill on our own, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said. "We're going to need some Democrat votes."
Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said the bonding bill includes funds for roads, bridges and similar projects.
The House passed the tax bill earlier this week. It proposes dipping into state budget reserves to offset tax cuts, mainly to businesses.