Republicans Rewriting Stadium Plan

Ortman, Dean

Republican lawmakers are writing a new Vikings stadium plan, upsetting Democrats, including Gov. Mark Dayton.

House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, late this afternoon said that he heard from fellow Republicans that the $975 million stadium plan, with $398 million of state money, was too expensive. So in the past two weeks he floated his idea that would cap state contributions at about half that, forcing the Vikings and others to pay more.

The Vikings do not like the plan.

“It is not a concept we support,” Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said.

Dayton is furious that the plan was discussed in private, without Democrats involved, after a proposal now awaiting House and Senate action was crafted over eight months, including being heard in several legislative committees.

Dean said the state would pay for infrastructure, what he described as “from the turf down.”

GOP leaders said Republican lawmakers seem to like the plan, which Dean and Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said remains a work in progress.

They gave no indication about when they may complete the plan and allow House and Senate votes.

While the state only would fund infrastructure, it would have to be publically owned if the state were to sell bonds to finance its construction.

Republicans were forced to announce the proposal this afternoon, following an early afternoon news conference by Dayton and other Democrats blasting it.

“I think we have pretty broad support within our caucuses,” Dean said.

However, to pass a bonding bill, they also need Democratic support and no Democrats have been consulted.

The plan is to incorporate stadium funding into a bill that also funds other public works projects across the state.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said nothing has been decided on a stadium.

“It is another solution to the problem,” he said.

Chief stadium bill author Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said a plan agreed upon weeks ago remains the chief proposal, but “there are new ideas every day.”

“At this point, anything could happen,” Lanning added.

Dayton and other Democrats told reporters that they learned this morning that Republican leaders have been meeting in secret with Vikings officials to negotiate a new stadium plan. There was no immediate comment from GOP leaders or the Vikings.

It is “still a deep secret,” Dayton said, adding that he learned of the talks third hand.

“We have been working in this bill eight months,” Dayton said, adding this is late in the legislative session to change things and not talking to all involved.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said two principles most lawmakers back are that a stadium would not be funded by general tax funds and it would have a roof. The preliminary GOP proposal could violate both, he said.

Dean said it would be up to the Vikings and other who finance a stadium whether it would have a roof.

The Legislature planned to adjourn Monday, but missed that self-imposed deadline because work remains on the stadium, taxes and public works projects. It is not known how much longer the Legislature will meet, but it can only hold floor sessions about a half dozen more days.

Many Republican legislators said they had heard discussion of the concept, but generally were not specific about the details.

Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, said he supports the Senate companion bill to the one Lanning promotes, but knows other plans are being discussed.

Sen. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, said the Dean proposal is attractive because it removes all gambling as stadium funding source. Many lawmakers oppose expanding gambling.

Lanning would not say if he and Zellers have discussed a major change in his stadium bill.

The chief Democratic stadium bill supporter in the House, Rep. Terry Morrow of St. Peter, did not appear happy when asked about the development: “I’m not saying a word.”