Stadium Tension Ramps Up In Capitol

Speaker Zellers, Sen. Ortman

By Danielle Nordine

Monday’s Vikings stadium debate could be bruising and lengthy.

Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton’s Friday veto of a seemingly unrelated Republican tax plan set off a battle about priorities and compromises, possibly previewing what to expect when the state House takes up the stadium bill Monday.

“By vetoing the Legislature’s tax bill for 2012, the governor, I believe, just burned what may have been the last bridge to working cooperatively with legislators at the Capitol,” Deputy Senate Majority Leader Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said. “He vetoed our highest priority, and I think there will be consequences.”

The stadium is one of Dayton’s top priorities, Ortman said. The tax bill veto may have caused some lawmakers to question why they should support his priorities when he vetoed theirs, she warned.

The House plans to take up the stadium construction bill Monday, a debate some have estimated could take 12 hours.

“Monday is game day,” Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Chairman Ted Mondale said.

The House could take up the bill Monday afternoon or evening, most likely after debate on a public works financing bill. It was not clear if the Senate could begin its debate Monday or would wait until later in the week.

Dayton encouraged people to contact their legislators on the issue and said he will talk with lawmakers as well. He, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Vikings players plan a Saturday rally at Mall of America.

“I will do whatever I can to encourage this,” Dayton said.

House bill author Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said the best thing he and others can do for those who are undecided is answer their questions and address concerns.

It still is unclear whether the bill has enough votes to pass.

“I think we have a good chance,” Lanning said. But “there are some people who don’t declare their vote until they push the button.”

In the Senate, Rosen said she has been talking with Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, about the votes for the bill.

“We have a little work to do, but we’re on the same page,” Rosen said.

Dayton said he hopes Friday’s tax bill veto will not affect next week’s stadium vote and rejected it quickly to keep it from becoming a “negotiation tactic.”

“I don’t think it should be related in any way,” he said. “I hope that legislators will separate the issues.”

Dayton said he has made it clear he does not want the stadium tied to any other issues or involved in a legislative session-ending deal.

Even if the bills are successful in the House and Senate, there still will be plenty of work to do. The two versions have to be combined into one bill and then receive new House and Senate votes, and time is winding down before the Legislature must adjourn.

“It’s going to be a very short turnaround,” Lanning said.

Typically joint House and Senate conference committees have a week to mesh two bills, he said, but the stadium bill’s committee likely only will have a day or two.

There already are differences between the two versions, and a number of amendments are expected to be proposed during debate and could be tacked on to the plan.

For example, Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, proposes a plan that would rely on user fees to fund the stadium. He said a House sponsor will bring it up during debate Monday.

Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said he does not support the idea.

“It shifts the state’s cost on to the team and our fans,” he said.

Other alternate funding sources have been mentioned, especially from those concerned about additional gambling that the main plan would use to repay stadium construction costs.

Rosen said she is open to new ideas that improve the bill, but said significant changes likely will not be acceptable to all the parties involved.

The plan to be debated Monday would have the state contributing $398 million toward stadium construction of the $975 million stadium on the Metrodome site in Minneapolis. That piece would funded by allowing for electronic pulltab and bingo devices.

The Vikings and other private sources would contribute $427 million, while Minneapolis would add $150 million.

Rosen said she has not thought about what would happen if the bill does not pass the Legislature.

“You don’t work on a bill this hard to have it fail,” she said.