Stadium forecast sours

Published 12:11 pm Friday, December 7, 2012

One of the little nuggets in Minnesota’s grim new budget forecast is a prediction that gambling revenues to fund the new Vikings stadium are expected to be less than half of what the state was counting on. It is an early sign that the sketchy plan thrown together on a deadline to get the Vikings a stadium may be just as risky as critics had feared.

Caught between taxpayer refusal to pay for a stadium on one hand and a desire to help the Vikings on the other, lawmakers and the governor last winter crafted a plan that called for state government to pay for a chunk of the new stadium via new gambling revenues. By rolling out shiny, new video gaming devices in charitable gambling locations, the state expected to take in $34 million a year in new revenue. Unfortunately, revenue for next year is on pace to be only about $16 million, state budget officials said earlier this week.

Gov. Mark Dayton, one of the plans chief proponents, told a Twin Cities reporter that he wasn’t worried about the projected deficit. “It will resolve itself,” a reporter quoted him as saying. That strikes us as a relatively worrisome response, because if gambling revenues don’t fill the stadium coffers as planned it is likely that plain old taxes would be the next source tapped. That means nearly every Minnesotan would be pitching in. We’d much rather know that the governor was taking the issue seriously and was developing a plan to shore up revenues. Maybe that is the case, and it just didn’t come through in the story. But given the size of the state’s overall deficit, it is more likely that stadium funding is far down the list of priorities.

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We hope that amidst all the other state fiscal concerns the issue of stadium funding isn’t lost. A revenue stream that is at only 50 percent of what was planned for less than a year ago is a bad sign.