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Friday, July 15, 2011
BBAO: Stadium time in Minnesota?

By Kevin Seifert

We're Black and Blue All Over:

The end of a two-week state government shutdown will return the Minnesota Vikings' stadium issue back to the front burner in state politics. I'll be fascinated to see how it plays out.

Once details of the new state budget are finalized over the next few days, Gov. Mark Dayton will call a special session of the state legislature to approve it. Vikings officials are already working with state leaders, via meetings Thursday and more scheduled for Friday, to include their stadium proposal in the budget. The Star Tribune has details.

Spokesman Lester Bagley indicated the scope of and plans for the project have changed since the $1.057 billion project was originally introduced. He hinted but would not confirm the final price tag has been lowered.

Here is the political issue as I see it. In order to reach a budget compromise, Dayton removed his proposal to raise income taxes on Minnesotans who earn more than $1 million annually. But to build the new Vikings stadium, he'll have to approve a sales tax increase in Ramsey County, which would hit earners of all levels, and commit to a total of $650 million in public money.

Would that sales tax increase fly with Republicans who just won the battle on preventing Dayton's previous tax proposal? I'm not sure. In order to forge an agreement, the state had to delay payment of more than $700 million to K-12 schools. Does it then work to commit almost the same amount to a sports stadium? That will be the question faced by state leaders.

There has been some talk about tabling the Vikings issue for another special session or perhaps the beginning of the 2012 state legislative session, which opens in late January. There are some leaders who would prefer the stadium be built in downtown Minneapolis as opposed to suburban Arden Hills. The Vikings' lease expires Feb. 1, 2012. Stay tuned.

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