House committee sends stadium bill to full House
ST. PAUL -- A Vikings stadium construction bill is headed to a full House vote after a dramatic Monday night turnaround.
Minutes shy of being exactly a week after another committee defeated the plan, the House Ways and Means Committee sent the $975 million proposal to the House. In that week, stadium politics became frenzied in the Minnesota Capitol and with each passing day it became more apparent that the skids were greased for House and Senate votes.
However, once the stadium plan reaches those votes, there is no guarantee they will pass as evidenced by tough questions Monday night even as the plan gained new life.
The Ways and Means Committee amended a stadium construction proposal onto another bill and then approved the amended bill. Both decisions came on voice votes, with no official record of how committee members voted.
Also Monday, the Senate scheduled a second stadium hearing for its version of the proposal.
The decision to bring back the stadium plan sends the proposal to the House for a likely vote this week, before the Legislature adjourns in a few days. The vote was a complete turnaround from a week earlier, when another committee dealt the stadium plan a 9-6 defeat.
Several legislators said they had concerns with the plan, but still support it.
The funding source was the main concern of some committee members.
"This doesn't work," Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, said.
Hackbarth especially objected to the plan to pay for the state's portion of stadium construction costs by allowing charities that sponsor gambling use electronic pulltab and bingo devices, as well as sports-themed tip board games. The state Revenue Department says there will be enough new state taxes on charities' gambling profits to repay stadium construction costs.
"What proof do you have that they are going to bring in the type of money you say they are going to bring in?" Hackbarth demanded of stadium backers Reps. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, and Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead.
The estimates come from "people smarter than most of the people in this room," Kriesel said. "We have to get creative because no one wants to raise taxes."
Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said he supports a stadium, but does not think stadium supporters have figured in all the factors involved in increasing gambling, such as expenses incurred by compulsive gamblers.
"I would certainly like to know what this bill is going to cost the state," Huntley said.
The amendment the Ways and Means Committee considered basically was the Lanning bill another committee defeated a week earlier.
Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, convinced committee members to require steel in the new stadium to come from Minnesota ore.
Rukavina's amendment replaced language saying steel should be American made "to the extent possible." He called the original wording "some pretty wimpy language."
The full Senate could vote on its version of the proposal Thursday or Friday, if it passes its committee stops.
The Senate Rules Committee Monday evening approved letting a version of the stadium bill written by Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, to continue to move through the committee process. Its second committee stop comes in the Senate jobs committee Tuesday morning.
Monday night's House Ways and Means Committee vote came a week after a week after the House Government Operations committee rejected it 9-6.
Since then, Democrats have come under fire for failing to provide enough support for a stadium and the National Football League commissioner visited the Capitol to insist that a stadium be approved before the Legislature adjourns, probably in less than a week.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said he did not threaten that the Vikings would leave Minnesota without a new stadium planned, but that is the message Gov. Mark Dayton and other stadium supporters took away Friday.
About 50 people, mostly wearing Vikings jerseys, rallied on the Capitol's front steps Monday morning in an attempt to move the stadium forward.
The Vikings want a $975 million stadium on the Minneapolis Metrodome site. The team and other private sources would add $427 million, with Minneapolis chipping in $150 million.
The Vikings and Minneapolis would provide on-going operating costs.
The bill requires that the stadium also be used by amateur teams. It would host events ranging from concerts to monster truck rallies, much like the Metrodome has done for 30 years.
The Vikings say they cannot make enough money from the Metrodome. The team's lease expired Feb. 1.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.