Sparks, Murray favoring stadium proposal

Published 6:35 pm Saturday, May 5, 2012

Area legislators said Friday they will vote in favor of the Minnesota Vikings stadium bill — as long as the plan doesn’t fall back on taxpayers.

The nearly $1 billion plan to build a new stadium for the Vikings is slated for a long-awaited vote Monday, first in the House and then in the Senate. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton supports the plan to build at the Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis using tax revenue from gambling.

District 27A Rep. Rich Murray, R-Albert Lea, said he has a concern with what the backup plan would be if the gambling proposal does not pan out, but he is starting to feel more comfortable with the package than he did a few weeks ago.

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“I have to be very confident that we’re not going to dive into the general fund and pull money from there,” he said. “Once we pull money from there, we’re affecting nursing homes, education, roads and bridges.”

Murray said he’s had the chance to “dig down deep” into the finances of the bill and has spoken with all of the different parties involved.

Under the proposal, the team has committed $427 million in private financing, with $150 million from Minneapolis sales taxes, and the balance of about $398 million coming from new taxes projected to roll in by allowing bars and restaurants that offer gambling to upgrade to electronic versions of some games.

Murray said there are about 3,500 bars around the state that could take part.

State Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, said he, too, would be in favor of the bill as long as there are no general fund dollars involved and local charities are OK with the charitable gambling language in the bill.

Sparks said he was unsure whether the stadium bill would come before the Senate Monday as senators are first focusing on the bonding bill — which could also have a large amount of debate — and then there is also the tax bill that was vetoed by Dayton Friday morning.

“But we really deserve it to the Vikings to have an up-or-down vote to let them know where we stand,” he said.

District 27B. Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, could not be reached for comment.

The bill needs 68 votes in the House and 34 in the Senate to pass.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers said he isn’t sure if the existing plan will pass, noting that he plans to vote against it. Dayton urged Minnesotans to pressure their legislators to back the proposal, which also is supported by the Vikings and city leaders in Minneapolis.

Dayton has called the stadium proposal the “people’s stadium,” stating it would provide jobs for several thousand Minnesotans and keep the Vikings in the state.

“Now everyone will be able to hold legislators accountable for that momentous decision,” he said in a statement.

The governor’s office stated 13,000 Minnesotans could be put to work during the construction of the new stadium, and the Vikings would be required to play in the new stadium for the next 30 years.