Poppe votes against stadium bill

Published 7:00 am Thursday, May 6, 2010

Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, voted against a Vikings stadium bill during a Wednesday morning committee hearing, saying the legislation lacks structure and is not a top priority as the state deals with massive budget issues.

Poppe, who is vice chair of the House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee, joined nine other legislators in narrowly voting down the bill, 10-9. The vote was a serious blow to stadium legislation, as the bill needs to pass that committee and, eventually, the whole Legislature to become law— all within two weeks before the legislative session ends.

The Austin representative said her vote does not mean she is against public funding for a Vikings stadium altogether, noting that she supported pushes by the Twins and Gophers for their new stadiums, both of which have opened in the past year and utilized some public dollars.

However, Poppe said she wants to see a more definitive plan before going forward this time around.

“That bill is nowhere near ready to come to final passage,” she said. “They really need to work on how it’s going to be funded.”

How the stadium would be funded has been uncertain at best since legislation came to the table earlier this week. What is clear is that the stadium is slated to cost roughly $791 million, with two-thirds of that being paid for by the state and the rest being paid for by the team.

However, details beyond that have been murky, with several alternate plans garnering discussion and with proposed funding sources moving in and out of place. Additionally, a definitive site for the stadium has not been established. Minneapolis — and perhaps where the Metrodome sits now — would seemingly be a preferred location, but city officials there have balked at a proposed tax plan and have not shown overwhelming support for a new stadium.

These logistics, however, were just one factor in Poppe’s vote. The representative said she is also concerned about letting a stadium take precedence over the state budget, particularly following the Minnesota Supreme Court ruling Wednesday that Gov. Tim Pawlenty exceeded his authority when he trimmed $5.3 million from a state program — a ruling that raises questions about $2.7 billion in budget cuts.

“(The stadium bill) is clearly not a priority,” Poppe said. “It is not a need.”

Despite the setback in the House, stadium legislation is not necessarily dead. A Senate committee passed a similar bill Wednesday, and the legislation could reach the Senate floor in the next two weeks, Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, said.

“I think the No. 1 priority has to be to balance the budget,” Sparks said. “At the same time, I think it’s good to have (stadium) discussion. I think there’s time for it in the next two weeks.”

Sparks, who is not a member of the committee that acted Wednesday, said he would want to see how the bill looks if it reaches the Senate floor before saying he’s for or against it. The senator did say, however, that he likes the idea of public support for a Vikings stadium, though he favors his “racino” proposal, which would bring slot machines to two race tracks in the state in an effort to raise revenue.

“We still have that option,” Sparks said.

If stadium legislation is not successful before the session ends, next year would seemingly be the last chance for legislators — the Viking’s Metrodome lease is up after the 2011 season, and team officials have announced they would not renew.

-The Associated Press contributed to this report