Racino gets amended into Vikings stadium bill
by Charley Shaw
Published: April 25,2012
Time posted: 5:57 pm
Tags: Barb Goodwin, Barb Johnson, Claire Robling, Julie Rosen, Minnesota Vikings, Paul Thissen, Richard Cohen, Sean Nienow, Vikings Stadium
The bill passed 9-5 and was re-referred to the Senate Taxes Committee without recommendation. [Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, abstained].
The racino amendment, offered by Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, and passed 11-3, shocked the Capitol and threw the stadium’s prospects into disarray.
After the hearing, the chief bill author Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said the Taxes Committee will need to remove the racino funding if the bill is to survive.
“This will have to be addressed tomorrow in Tax Committee. …It will have to be taken out of the bill,” Rosen said.
Wednesday’s events slowed down the momentum that the stadium had gathered on Monday and Tuesday. In addition to the racino addition, the bill’s supporters yielded to pressure from high-ranking Republicans to send the bill to Taxes. Deputy Senate Majority Leader Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassan, who is the Taxes chair, issued a press release this morning that firmly requested her committee receive the bill. The prospect of a hearing in Taxes has raised concerns among stadium supporters because of the likelihood of a tough vote.
During the Finance hearing, the twittersphere lighted up when the committee’s Chair Claire Robling, R-Jordan, announced the bill was bound for Taxes.
The bill would contribute $398 million in state money to the $975 million downtown Minneapolis stadium. Until now, the stadium bonds were backed by revenue from allowing electronic pulltabs and bingo.
Racino has always been controversial because it expands gambling and breaks the monopoly on gaming enjoyed by Minnesota Indian tribes, who have a been a traditional base of financial support for DFLers. Racino has also been staunchly opposed by some Republicans who fear a rise in gambling addiction.
Sen. Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, said the Vikings need 27 DFL Senate votes to pass and would see its prospects dashed by racino. Rosen, who is otherwise a supporter of racino, noted that the bill won’t advance further with racino in tact.
“I don’t know if it would get onto the floor with racino in it,” Rosen said
The Vikings bill in the House was passed onto the floor by the Ways and Means Committee on Monday with pulltabs financing in place. On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said his caucus has enough votes to pass the bill if the GOP majority puts up a “proportional” amount of support.
“If Republicans have their proportional votes we could pass the bill today,” Thissen said.
That left open for speculation whether Thissen can offer enough votes if House Republican leaders can’t meet that mark.
In what has become common practice in stadium legislation in the last week, Rosen started the Finance hearing by removing a controversial provision that had been added in the previous committee. In a move that lost the support of the St. Paul legislative delegation, Rosen successfully removed an article of the bill that was added in another committee yesterday that forgave $43 million in debt from the RiverCentre in downtown St. Paul. Over the objections of St. Paul legislators and the city’s Mayor Chris Coleman, Rosen said the stadium bill doesn’t have enough money to forgive the debt.
The committee also beat back a couple controversial amendments.
The committee defeated 8-5 a move by Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, to hold a referendum on the money to refurbish the Target Center. The city’s charter requires a referendum to spend more than $15 million on a stadium. Before the vote on the amendment Nienow said not allowing the referendum is akin to “saying to the voters: Screw you.” Nienow voted against the bill even though his racino amendment was adopted.
Gene Ranieri, a lobbyist for the city of Minneapolis, noted that the Target Center improvements are an essential part of the Minneapolis City Council’s approval of the deal.
“This is really contingent on their support for a stadium,” Ranieri said.
The pulltabs funding source was subjected to scrutiny before the racino amendment was adopted. Hann questioned the financial assumptions of electronic pulltabs from the Gambling Control Board, in part because they are based on information from the industry.
“I’m not sure I’m confident those are reliable numbers,” Hann said.
At this point the Vikings also have objections to amendments that have been made through the committee process. The Vikings chief in-house lobbyist Lester Bagley said the concerns include the increase of the team’s stadium lease from 30 years to 40 years and the requirement that the team cover the city’s portion of the operating costs in the first five years of the stadium’s life.