GOP plan cuts taxpayer share for Vikings stadium
ST. PAUL, Minn. – A group of Republican state lawmakers proposed a new Vikings stadium plan Thursday that would drastically reduce the size of the taxpayer contribution, arguing it was the only way the team's stadium push could make it through the Legislature.
The chief sponsor, Sen. Roger Chamberlain, of Lino Lakes, said the bill would have the state contribute $300 million in construction costs from sales taxes on stadium-related purchases that could include tickets, concessions and parking. That's less than half the $600 million to $700 million taxpayer share under discussion in recent negotiations around a stadium likely to cost about $1 billion to build.
Cutting the taxpayer contribution would leave the Vikings owners to significantly increase their own contribution, from a current proposal of about $425 million to as much as $700 million. Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said that would not happen.
"We do appreciate the willingness to bring forward new ideas," Bagley said. "We do want this issue to get resolved, but the bottom line is that his bill's economics are not workable in this small to mid-size market. It would not allow the Vikings to be competitive if this bill passed."
Other proposals would have the taxpayer contribution come from a mix of tax revenue on expanded gambling and sales tax proceeds from Minneapolis, presuming the new stadium is built there. But Chamberlain said he did not believe a majority of House and Senate members would support expanded gambling. He said funneling tax revenue from a gambling expansion would be "bad policy, bad finance and a tax by another name."
"We have not yet seen any proposal that could actually succeed in the House and Senate — that has enough votes," said bill co-sponsor Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines.
The Vikings have for the last decade been pursuing taxpayer support to build a new football stadium to replace the Metrodome. They say that 30-year-old stadium is outdated and no longer able to generate the kind of profits to keep the team at the same level as franchises in other cities. The inability so far of state lawmakers to approve a stadium package has raised fears among the team's supporters and fans that the Vikings could move to another city, though at this point the team has no choice but to play the upcoming season in 2012 now that an NFL relocation deadline has passed for the year.
Chamberlain said he is a lifelong Vikings fan and that his proposal is serious. But it includes a provision to eliminate the state's business property tax that immediately drew criticism from Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, a strong proponent of a new stadium.
Chamberlain said the provision would lift a burden on businesses statewide and make it easier for the Vikings to line up private support to help bankroll stadium construction. But Dayton said in a statement released by his office that eliminating the property tax on businesses would raise property taxes on everyone else — "like home-owning families, farmers, senior citizens, and renters."
In recent weeks, negotiations between the team, Dayton's administration, key state lawmakers and Minneapolis officials have centered on a plan to tear down the Metrodome and build a new stadium. Negotiators have said in recent days they are close to a final proposal that can be introduced as a bill at the Capitol. Bagley said Thursday that some sticking points remain.
Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, is backing Chamberlain's bill. He said the Vikings should not be so quick to dismiss it.
"Any other business that was offered this kind of deal would say, 'That's a good deal,'" Hann said.