by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
A Senate committee today (April 20) passed the first Vikings’ stadium bill in the Senate this legislative session, Sen. Julie Rosen’s bill passing the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee on an 8 to 6 vote.
“I think it helped to have the (National Football League) Commissioner here,” said Rosen after the vote, alluding to the visit of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to the State Capitol this morning to meet with the governor and legislative leaders.
Rosen’s bill had been laying on the table in Chairman Ray Vandeveer’s committee for weeks — Vandeveer personally voted against the bill.
But he suggested the bill, passed without recommendation onto the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee, could pick up momentum.
“As bills go through committees they tend to do better,” said Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake.
Rosen’s Minneapolis Vikings’ stadium bill — the Vikings’ owners preferred bill — wasn’t the only bill heard in committee.
Sen. James Metzen’s Arden Hills stadium bill was also heard. The proposal — Arden Hills was originally the Vikings preferred site — would build a $1 billion stadium on some 260-acres of land near the old Twin Cities Ammunition Plant.
Ramsey County officials hail the proposal as less expensive to the state than the Minneapolis proposal, affording greater opportunity for job creation because of the plenitude of available land.
County officials included in their stadium proposal a referendum for the proposed two percent food and beverage sales tax for suburban Ramsey County, speaking of the proposal as undergoing evolutionary changes over past months.
Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, got a few nibbles from committee members.
“I think your proposal has a lot of merit to it,” said Vandeveer.
Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, also voiced a degree of support for Arden Hills.
Chamberlain, like Vandeveer, voted against Rosen’s bill.
Vandeveer, instead of calling for a vote on the Arden Hills’ proposal, laid the bill over.
Metzen indicated that he would rather risk a vote in committee than risk having his bill simply disappear.
“I don’t want to see the bill headed to the graveyard,” said Metzen, arguing that it needed work but that it was a good bill.
But Vandeveer suggested he was trying to help Metzen, not bury the bill alive.
“The concern is you not leaving here at all,” Vandeveer broadly hinted of the outcome of an immediate vote.
Speaking after the hearing, Vandeveer indicated again a degree of support for Arden Hills.
“I like the location,” he said.
A bill carried by Chamberlain, which would issue revenue bonds for a stadium to be repaid by user fees and provide private business incentives, is alive in the Senate tax committee, Vandeveer noted.
He suggested a grafting of Metzen’s and Chamberlain’s bills.
His current concern with the Arden Hills proposal, Vandeveer explained, is its reliance on charitable gambling revenues — the same state financing engine used in Rosen’s bill.
“Relying on charitable gambling is for me still difficult to think of as a good thing for the state and our economy,” said Vandeveer.
Vandeveer did not dismiss the possibility of future action on Metzen’s bill.
Rosen’s bill was amended during the committee hearing.
Sen. Kenneth Kelash, DFL-Minneapolis, placed a ten percent surcharge on box seats during NFL games as a means of equalizing payment for the Minneapolis stadium between the “poor suckers” expected to generously contribute towards it through electronic pull-tabs and the high-income occupants of the box seats — seats electronic pull-tab players are unlikely ever to sit in, he explained.
“I think it’s just time to start that discussion,” said Kelash of the creation of perceived fairness in paying for a stadium.
Kelash voted for the bill, as did all but one of the Democrats on the committee.
Sen. Mary Jo McGuire, DFL-Falcon Heights, voted against the bill.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, recently said DFLers on the committee would vote to get the bill moving.
Besides Kelash, another area Democrat, Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, voted for the stadium bill.
Other area Republicans on the committee voting against the Minneapolis stadium were senators Benjamin Kruse of Brooklyn Park and Pam Wolf of Spring Lake Park.