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St. Paul, Minn. — The stadium plan has survived three previous House committees, including more than a week of hearing before the Taxes Committee. The votes have been close, but favorable. Until now. The plan stumbled in the Ways and Means committee on a 13-13 vote. A clear majority is needed for a approval.
Twins Sports President Jerry Bell says the team is disappointed with that result, but he says it's not the first report of death stadium plans have overcome.
"It's important. You know, they're all important. Every committee's important. Two years ago we were dead in a committee and it was revised. I don't know if that'll happen again or not. But it has happened before," he noted.
The plan calls for separate Twins and Vikings stadiums that are expected to cost more than $1 billion combined. The plan calls for the teams to pay one-third of that costs.
In a new wrinkle, the bulk of the remainder would be covered by extended taxes on alcohol and car rentals. Statewide alcohol and car rental tax rates are scheduled to drop in 2006, but Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, offered an amendment to prolong them in the metropolitan area in order to help fund the stadiums. Rukavina says previous financing models simply didn't raise enough money to cover construction.
"All we've heard from committee to committee to committee is we'll fix it up in the next committee. The real, real money isn't there yet. And this is an attempt to do that," he said.
Rukavina's amendment was adopted on a 16-10 vote. The alcohol and car rental taxes replaced a complicated income and sales tax refund that would have diverted a portion of those taxes generated at the stadiums away from state coffers and folded them back into construction costs.
The amendment also substantially reduced the need for local taxes imposed by the new facilities' host communities.
Republican Rep. Doug Stang of Cold Spring, the chief author of the House plan, says he opposed the Rukavina amendment and worries that its adoption may have worried potential supporters.
"It changed the dynamic. There were members that came in this morning that thought they were going to vote on one thing, and the Rukavina amendment changed the bill significantly. So people that may have been supportive initially many have had concerns about that amendment," he said.
But the amendment was embraced by the Vikings. That team has long maintained that the previously-contemplated income and sales tax capture would not have supported a football stadium.
Vikings Executive Vice President Mike Kelly says a new Vikings home wasn't expected to show a substantial increase in those taxes. Kelly says that, despite the final hung vote, he's pleased to see lawmakers consider tax alternatives.
"The one thing, perhaps the only thing, that was encouraging about this is it does appear to be some willingness to discuss a variety of potential funding or financing sources for the state's piece," Kelly said.
What's good for the Vikings is not necessarily what's good for the governor. Pawlenty has pledged not to raise taxes and not to use general state revenues to pay for new stadiums. And his chief of staff, Dan McElroy says it's not clear whether extending alcohol and car rental taxes which already exist would violate the first no-new tax pledge.
"The jury is still out on that one," he said.
But if they are continued, McElroy's says it's hard to justify using those revenues for professional sports.
"It probably should continue to address the budget deficit and the overall general fund," according to McElroy.
McElroy says the administration hasn't given up hope of passing stadium legislation this year, but he says it will require more negotiations and will have to wait until after resolution of larger budget and policy issues. And to complicate matters further, lawmakers have only 10 days left until their required adjournment deadline.
Votes in the House Ways and Means Committee on stadium legislation
VOTED FOR (13):
Fran Bradley, R-Rochester
John Dorn, DFL-Mankato
Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont
Bill Haas, R-Champlin
Thomas Huntley, DFL-Duluth
Margaret Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis
Bill Kuisle, R-Rochester
Dennis Ozment, R-Rosemount
Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia
Connie Ruth, R-Owatonna
Doug Stang, R-Cold Spring
Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon
Howard Swenson, R-Nicollet
VOTED AGAINST (13):
Ron Abrams, R-Minnetonka
Irv Anderson, DFL-International Falls
Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal
Ron Erhardt, R-Edina
Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville
Phil Krinkie, R-Shoreview
Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud
Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington
Marty Seifert, R-Marshall
Steve Smith, R-Mound
Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids
Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis
Neva Walker, DFL-Minneapolis
Peter Adolphson, R-Minnetonka
Alice Seagren, R-Bloomington
Source: The Associated Press