By Danielle Nordine and Don Davis
The task of finding a way to build a Vikings stadium falls to six legislative negotiators after the House and Senate passed different plans.
The stadium half dozen will negotiate to find compromises that the Legislature can accept when the bill returns for full House and Senate votes.
Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said it is time to “sit down and roll up our sleeves” as the details of the final bill are hammered out.
Senate bill author Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said the House-Senate conference committee will start work as soon as possible. She said the committee will have a lot to discuss, including increasing the Vikings’ contribution to the project and how to include provisions such as user fees, which dominated Senate debate Tuesday.
Lawmakers only have one working day left this year after today.
However, they could adjourn after today’s House and Senate sessions to next week, giving negotiators time to work. Negotiation meetings do not count as a legislative working day.
If work does not get done in the one remaining day, Gov. Mark Dayton could call the Legislature back into special session.
Bill supporters feel the pressure to wrap up work quickly after a decade of talk about a new stadium.
“The pressure is just from the timeline,” Rosen said.
Negotiators primarily supported the original bill, which the House and Senate significantly changed. They are Rep. Morrie Lanning, R–Moorhead; Rosen; Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL–St. Peter; Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R–Alexandria; Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL–Duluth; and Rep. Joe Hoppe, R–Chaska.
No conference committee meeting was immediately scheduled on the stadium, but one was planned for this morning about a tax-relief bill that the governor vetoed Friday. Republicans want to make tax changes and are trying to put together a measure that could be voted on later today or in the final day they can pass bills.
As lawmakers wind down this year’s session, most attention has been placed on stadium talk.
The stadium proposal passed after months of working group meetings, negotiations among legislators, the governor, the Vikings and local officials. Once an agreement was reached earlier this year, it moved in fits and starts through seven legislative committees.
The Minnesota Senate approved the bill 38-28 late Tuesday after about 11 hours of debate. The House moved it forward 73-58 Monday following eight and a half hours of discussion.
Some lawmakers were concerned the hours they spent in debate discussing the bill and approving some amendments will not mean much.
“I have a feeling it was sound and fury signifying nothing,” Sen. Michelle Benson, R–HamLake, said.
She predicted the bill to come back from conference committee will be the original plan.
The full House and Senate must approve the final product from the conference committee before Dayton can accept the bill. Some lawmakers said they voted for the bill originally, but may not support it the next time it comes up for a vote.
Rosen included a limited version of user fees in her bill, mixed with using expanded charitable gambling taxes.
The proposal, which differs from the House’s bill, would charge a 10 percent fee on suites and parking within a half mile of the stadium on game days. A 6.875 percent fee would be tacked onto NFL memorabilia sold at the stadium.
Also, the Rosen bill would require the state lottery to conduct a sports-based game to generate at least $2.1 million a year.
The House bill approved this week would fund the entire state portion of stadium construction by allowing charities to use electronic devices to play pull tabs and bingo. Rosen’s bill includes a similar provision.
Many senators, especially conservative Republicans, prefer fees to all users of a new stadium to eliminate the need for gambling to support construction. Some stadium opponents said they would have supported the plan if it included user fees instead of gaming.
Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, decried the funding stream.
“This gambling is a mess,” hesaid, adding the government should not rely on such a funding source.
Senators proposed other new funding options outside of user fees during debate ranging from building a Twin Cities casino to collecting fees by legalizing fireworks.
One of the big disagreements may be about how much more to more to force the Vikings to pay for a stadium, which would host many events other than football games.
Rosen amended her bill to increase Vikings money going to the stadium by $25 million beyond the $427 million the team said was as high as it would go for the publicly owned stadium.
One of its biggest amendments in House debate came from Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington. It upped the Vikings’ responsibility for stadium construction costs $105 million.
Rosen said the team will have to increase its contribution to the project, but Bagley would not say whether the team plans to do that.
“Right now we stand with the term sheet,” he said, referring to the document that resulted from months–long negotiations. “Rather than speculate, let’s let the discussion move forward.”
Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, proposed a plan that would completely replace gambling with user fees. The plan was rejected Tuesday, though it was briefly adopted before a senator requested members vote again. It would have included taxes on tickets, concessions, advertising, memorabilia and more.
“This sends the message that people who are going to use this facility are going to share in the cost of construction and operation,” Howe said of user fees.
Some stadium opponents said they would have voted for the plan if it had been funded by user fees instead of gaming.
Dayton and others have warned the Vikings could be sold and leave the state if a stadium agreement is not reached.