Jumping the gun

Published 11:39 am Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gov. Mark Dayton either jumped the gun or made a shrewd political move this week when he said he wants the Legislature to convene in a special session next month to decide on whether — and how — to finance a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings football team.

A politician of considerable experience, it is possible that Dayton has carefully calculated that public funding to build a new stadium for a highly profitable team has little chance of winning approval. Not in a year when the same Legislature handed down tax increases in a variety of formats after disagreeing so significantly that the state government shut down. But to show support for a special session before any realistic stadium plan is in place lets the governor appease the powerful Vikings lobby at the capital while running little risk that an unpopular stadium bill will reach his desk.

Or the governor is simply ignoring this Legislature’s past performance in the hopes that it might reach agreement on the highly controversial stadium issue in the next few weeks.

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Either way, Mr. Dayton stopped short of actually ordering lawmakers back into session — an action that only the governor can take.

Meanwhile, the Vikings and its legislative supporters, including some Republicans who oppose tax increases except to help their favorite football team’s wealthy owners, wage a tough fight against a Minnesota public that sees no reason to build a stadium. Even the best argument, that it would provide construction jobs, is misplaced, because there are many valuable public works projects that could begin if the state simply desires to create construction jobs.

The Vikings stadium issue is a mess precisely because it makes so little sense. Good ideas and good plans invariably present relatively clear choices. The current state of stadium affairs is just more evidence that the idea of subsidizing a stadium is a bad one.