Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Vikings stadium: Republican takeover
By Kevin Seifert
If you didn't like an idea but didn't want to quash it outright, what would you do?
I know what I would do.
I would alter it in a way that forces its supporters to quash it themselves.
I can't say for sure if that's what Minnesota Republicans did Tuesday to the Minnesota Vikings' stadium bill. But from the outside, it seems like a reasonable explanation. In a nutshell, here's what happened, based on some of my own reporting and that of other outlets as well:
Republican leaders, who hold majority in both houses of the state legislature, approached the Vikings in recent days with a cheaper alternative to the $975 million stadium project, one that would be financed in a way that Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has already ruled out. Specifically, the stadium would be built without a roof, and the state's reduced financial obligation would be bonded with general state funds rather than with proceeds from electronic pull-tabs games, as the bill currently calls for.
There would seem to be at least two political non-starters in that proposal, at least from Dayton's point of view. Eliminating the roof would save perhaps $100 million-$150 million, but it would also eliminate the ability to use it year-round as a true replacement for the Metrodome. Also, political leaders from both parties have long ago pledged not to use general fund money for a stadium. That's why the Vikings employed the pull-tab option; it creates a new source of revenue specifically for the stadium.
Finally, by financing the stadium as part of a bonding bill with general state funds, legislative approval would require what's known as a "supermajority" rather than a simple majority. That means 60 percent of legislators would have to vote in favor rather than one more than 50 percent.
So what does all this mean? As we've discussed many times, things rarely go smoothly in state politics. This bill has overcome a number of hiccups, and this is probably the biggest obstacle yet. It is hard to imagine an open-air stadium being built with general state funds, so perhaps this is a classic negotiating effort to pull the Vikings and Dayton at least a little off their position.
It could also be a passive-aggressive way for Republicans to ultimately kill the bill without taking the blame.
Or it could be both: Republicans don't like the current bill, so they'll take their version or nothing else. Based on last summer's shutdown of state government, and Dayton's eventual capitulation on the key issues, it's a possibility worth strongly considering. As always, stay tuned.