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Now Or Never For A Vikings Stadium?

July 15, 2011

With the Minnesota government set to re-open its doors, talk of a Vikings stadium is ramping up once again. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has called for a special legislative session to end the 15-day government shutdown, and the Vikings have said they will be ready to present a plan for a new stadium.

“We’re ready to iron out final details and move (the) stadium issue forward,” said Lester Bagley, the teams’ vice president of public affairs and stadium development. “We can get this done.”

The question remains, however, whether or not the Minnesota State Legislature will be on the same page as the state’s football team.

Kevin Seifert of ESPN’s NFC North Blog points out the political dilemma now facing Minnesota’s lawmakers.

Here is the political issue as I see it. In order to reach a budget compromise, Dayton removed his proposal to raise income taxes on Minnesotans who earn more than $1 million annually. But to build the new Vikings stadium, he’ll have to approve a sales tax increase in Ramsey County, which would hit earners of all levels, and commit to a total of $650 million in public money.

Would that sales tax increase fly with Republicans who just won the battle on preventing Dayton’s previous tax proposal? I’m not sure. In order to forge an agreement, the state had to delay payment of more than $700 million to K-12 schools. Does it then work to commit almost the same amount to a sports stadium? That will be the question faced by state leaders.

And political pressure against the stadium continues to mount. During the government shutdown, the City Council of St. Paul — Ramsey County’s largest city — passed a non-binding measure opposing a half-cent sales tax increase to fund their portion of a new stadium. The vote was mainly symbolic, but for lawmakers who are elected every other year, the resolution may be the necessary impetus to vote against a stadium bill in the special session.

When the dust finally settles, I believe the Vikings will get a new stadium. However, I’m not sure the current political climate is ripe for a bill to be passed during this special session.

The team’s lease with the Metrodome is set to expire after next season, and if something doesn’t get decided now, rumors of the team moving to Los Angeles will spread faster than Adrian Peterson outrunning defenders in the open field.

Despite the odds working against a new home for the Vikings, Bagley thinks there is a “reasonable change” the bill passes in a special session.

Some of the lawmakers who cast the votes, however, do not share his optimism.

I don’t think it fits in at this time at all,” said Senator John Howe, a Republican from Red Wing, Minnesota. “I would hope no one would bring that up.”

After 10 years of pushing for a new home, I think that Senator Howe will not be getting his wish. The Vikings and their partners on Capitol Hill will be introducing legislation on a new stadium during the special session. Whether or not it has the votes to pass remains to be seen.



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