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House revives Vikings stadium bill
In a needed boost for stadium backers in the House, where another committee voted down the proposal a week ago, the House Ways and Means Committee forwarded the stadium bill to the House floor on an unrecorded voice vote.
Despite the bill's new life in the House, several lawmakers raised concerns about its details — particularly the projected tax revenue from an expansion of gambling that's being eyed to cover the state's share of the project. Legislators from both parties questioned whether it would raise the more than $50 million a year to pay off stadium construction bonds that has been promised by Gov. Mark Dayton's administration.
"If this revenue source does not work, the state taxpayer is on the hook," said Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar. "Just so we know that and it's very, very clear. This almost seems to be a case of, let's not talk about this. Let's not bring this up."
The committee attached the stadium proposal to a separate bill that authorizes Minnesota charities that operate games of chance in bars and restaurants to offer electronic versions of some of their games. That plan is projected to result in a spike in gambling profits, with much of the new money earmarked for the state's stadium share. Hackbarth pointed out that there's no good test case in other states to show that projections of new revenue are sound.
But Rep. Morrie Lanning, chief sponsor of the stadium bill, said both the Department of Revenue and the state's Gambling Control Board were confident in the projections. "You have to rely on people you depend upon to give you good advice," said Lanning, R-Moorhead.
Rep. John Kriesel, sponsor of the charitable gambling expansion, said he supported tying his proposal's fate to the larger stadium effort. He said it appeared to be the best route to getting floor votes by the full House and Senate on the stadium proposal before the Legislature adjourns for the year — likely within the next week.
"People deserve to know where their legislator and senator stands on it," said Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove.
The Senate and House stadium bills recently have gained momentum after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell visited the Capitol last Friday to urge lawmakers to approve a new home for the Vikings or risk losing the team to another city. NFL officials and the Vikings owners have said the 30-year-old Metrodome no longer allows the team to generate the kind of profits necessary to keep up with other teams in the league.
A companion stadium bill is also moving in the Senate, where that chamber's Rules Committee voted Monday to send it to the Jobs and Economic Development Committee for a hearing on Tuesday. A spokesman for the Senate's majority Republicans said he expected a vote by the full Senate possibly as early as Thursday or Friday.
Under that bill, the Vikings would pay $427 million of the construction costs for the new stadium, which would be built on the Metrodome site. City and state taxpayers would be on the hook for the other $548 million, or 56 percent of the total cost.
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