By Danielle Nordine and Don Davis
The Vikings stadium got “another first down” Tuesday, proclaimed the chairman of the state Senate committee that kept the bill’s recent momentum going.
The Senate jobs committee unanimously approved the stadium bill, sending it to its final committee, which is expected to debate it Wednesday morning. If approved there, it will head to the Senate floor.
A similar bill awaits a House floor debate, but House leaders have not said when that will occur.
“I do think after awhile it starts to take on a little bit of momentum and an air of inevitability,” jobs committee Chairman Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said.
“We have a few more hurdles to clear, but we’re encouraged with today’s action and last night’s action,” Lester Bagley, a lobbyist for the Vikings, said of the bill’s recent progression through committees.
The bill was approved on a voice vote Tuesday, meaning individual votes were not recorded.
Lawmakers are trying to end the 2012 legislative session no later than Monday, so little time remains to work out a final stadium agreement.
It is not clear if there are enough votes to pass the bill in the full House and Senate.
“It’s going to be a tight vote,” Bagley said.
Senate bill author Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said the Vikings bill probably will be one of the last debated this year.
If the proposal passes the Legislature and is signed by Gov. Mark Dayton, the Minneapolis City Council still must approve the plan.
“The longer we wait to do these things, the more they cost,” Sen. Dave Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said.
Members of the construction and hospitality industries spoke Tuesday about the benefit of a Vikings stadium project, which they said would add thousands of jobs in the area. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak agreed.
“There are very few things you can do between now and Monday to create thousands of jobs,” he said. “This is one of them.”
Legislators are looking at ways to help St. Paul fund some of its sports facilities or pay off debt in the bill as well.
“It’s time for St. Paul to be part of the equation,” St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said.
The committee accepted an amendment offered by Rosen that would give St. Paul $1.3 million to be used for its sports facilities or debt payments.
Another amendment that was adopted would give the city $43 million for its River Centre. Rosen said that amount “will have to come down.”
“I think we need to go back to the drawing board to figure out what’s fair for St. Paul,” Rosen said.
She and others raised concerns about too many pieces being added to the bill, which topped $1 billion after the committee finished its work.
“This is a fragile, fragile deal,” Bagley said.
Sen. Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo, tried to include $27 million for a new St. Paul Saints ballpark in the bill, but withdrew the amendment a few minutes later.
Rosen, R-Fairmont, said many of the details of the bill can be worked out when the Senate and House combine their versions of the bill after both chambers pass their own.
Under the stadium bills offered by Rosen and Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, the state’s $398 million portion of construction costs would be funded by allowing for electronic pulltab and bingo devices. The Vikings and other private funds, such as National Football League loans, would provide $427 million and Minneapolis would add $150 million.
Without a new stadium, Dayton and other stadium supporters say the Vikings may leave Minnesota.