GOP leaders scrap roofless stadium plan, set end-of-session path
An 11th-hour Republican Vikings stadium plan that would have paid for the state’s share with general obligation bonds was declared dead late Thursday morning, and in its wake House GOP leaders pledged to hold a long-awaited floor vote next Monday on the stadium bill authored by Rep. Morrie Lanning and Sen. Julie Rosen. House leaders said they also hope to vote on their 2012 bonding bill Monday.
GOP leaders said that serious questions about using general obligation bonds to pay for the state’s portion of a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings have forced them to drop the plan, which they floated as a possible end-of-session path just two days earlier. They will now move full-speed ahead with votes on a separate bonding bill and the stadium proposal negotiated between the team, city of Minneapolis and lawmakers, sketching out an end-of-session map that will involve lengthy floor debates and little negotiating with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
House Majority Leader Matt Dean, who was the leader on the new stadium push, said conversations with officials from Minnesota Management and Budget highlighted legal and logistical problems with using G.O. bonds for the stadium; those difficulties included the duration of the bonds in contrast to the length of the Vikings lease and who would be hiring contractors for construction. “Because of those impediments, we will not be bringing [the stadium bonding plan] forward,” Dean told reporters.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers said the pressure is now on the governor to wrangle up votes for the stadium plan he has been pushing all session.
“The stadium is absolutely, unequivocally the governor’s number one priority, his only priority this session,” Zellers said. “You garner your support from the Legislature, Democrats [and] Republicans alike, for your priority by helping them with their priorities. At just about every turn, with a few exceptions, our priorities have either been disrespected or dismissed.”
Zellers pointed to some key Republican initiatives this session — including the repeal of a teacher seniority law, education shift payback, tort reform and what seems like a likely veto on their omnibus tax bill — as items that the governor has dismissed out of hand.
“The Vikings and the governor believe the votes are there. At this point it’s going to be up to them to gain votes,” Zellers said. “I don’t know if there are the votes in the Republican caucus [for a stadium].”
In a statement released on Thursday, Dayton says he is “very pleased” that the Republican legislative leaders plan to take an up-or-down vote on the stadium in both chambers. “Now everyone will be able to hold legislators accountable for that momentous decision,” Dayton wrote. “I will continue to do all I can to convince them that this is a good deal for Minnesota, the best deal available, and much better than the alternative: losing thousands of jobs, losing the Vikings, and losing the ‘Can Do’ spirit, which is Minnesota.”
Zellers said as the Vikings stadium bill stands right now, he “cannot” support it. He said he will vote in favor of a package of bonding projects.
Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem said the bonding package has been agreed on by both the House and Senate leaders and will total $496 million, with $77 million included for Capitol restoration and a focus on infrastructure projects. Many local projects, including an expansion to the Rochester civic center in Senjem’s home district, have been taken out of the bill. The Senate will take up the omnibus tax bill — which passed the House earlier this week — and likely the bonding bill on the floor Thursday, said Senjem.