Gov. Dayton willing to give the Republican stadium bonding idea a chance

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is willing to give the Republican stadium “switch-a-roo” a chance.

Dayton spoke yesterday afternoon after an hour-long meeting with Republican legislative leaders in which the Republican proposal for using general obligation bonding as a means of paying for a Vikings stadium was discussed.

House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, talks outside of the Governor's Office today (May 2) on the Republican stadium bonding proposal. Immediately to the left of Dean is Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, with House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, standing to the right. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

Dayton, Democratic legislative leaders at his side, told gathered media outside the Governor’s Office that he “meant every word” of his blistering critique of the Republican stadium bonding proposal — Dayton styled it a “hare-brain scheme” at an earlier press appearance.

“But we’ll give it a chance,” said Dayton.

He’s not going to let his personal feelings get in the way of finding a stadium solution, he explained.

Republican leaders emerged from the meeting with the governor in part blaming the media for reporting perceived inaccuracies about their proposal that stoked the biting rhetoric.

House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, indicated that Republicans wanted buy-in from the governor and the Minnesota Vikings on their bonding proposal.

“We hope this is fruitful,” said Dean.

“If it’s not productive, if it’s not helpful, then we can move to other solutions,” he said.

It’s “okay” if the governor and the team rejects the general obligation bonding approach, Dean explained.

Republicans are gathering more information regarding the use of general obligation bonds towards the stadium, the leaders explained.

Dean explained that Minnesota Management and Budget Office officials have indicated that to use these bonds, which are commonly used to pay for state investments ranging from exhibits at the Minnesota Zoo to new windows on college buildings and involve the use of general fund dollars, it would require the new stadium to sport a roof.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton indicated today that he meant every word of his recent criticisms of Republican legislative leaders, but that he was willing to give their bonding proposal a chance. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

That’s to ensure the facility could be used year around, Dean indicated.

Although Dean did not give an exact proposed bonding amount, he indicated the amount of bonding could be in the $300 million range.

Dean indicated that Republican leaders are speaking with city of Minneapolis officials about the bonding proposal.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has indicated that if the proposal had the team paying less for the stadium and the city paying the same, the city wasn’t interested.

The Vikings stadium legislation currently awaiting action on House and Senate floors calls for the use electronic pull-tabs and bingo to pay the debt service on proposed appropriation bonding for the stadium.

The reason lawmakers have looked to gambling revenues as a funding source is because one of the main pillars of the Vikings stadiums debate thus far is that general tax dollars could not be used.

Republicans don’t dispute that general obligation bonding has a state general funding impact, but argue that the fiscal mechanics of charitable gambling also impacts the general fund.

Asked why Republicans are now looking at general obligation bonding when they had for months cited April 30 as the date for adjourning the legislative session, Dean spoke of “stumbling blocks” in pursuing the stadium legislation.

But he also indicated that the negotiated Vikings stadium legislation carried by Republican bill authors in House and Senate has not been rejected.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, indicated that he considered the heated rhetoric from the governor and other Democrats as water under the bridge.

“Today is today; yesterday was yesterday,” said Zellers.

Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, who attended the meeting with his Republican House colleagues, offered no comments after the meeting with the governor.

Senjem’s comments yesterday about the Republican bonding proposal as being embryonic and incubating were seized upon by the Democrats in trying to depict the perceived shakiness of the proposal.

While more measured with their words than earlier, Dayton and Democratic legislative leaders still indicated they were dubious of the Republican bonding approach.

“There’s no there, there,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, of the Republican plan.

Dayton compared the proposal to throwing a deck of cards up in the air at the last minute.

He also styled the proposal a “switch-a-roo.”

Republicans late afternoon yesterday released details concerning their general obligation stadium bonding proposal.

They placed the state’s financial commitment to the stadium at $250 million — about $150 million less than envisioned in the stadium bills awaiting action on the Republican House and Senate floors.

The general obligation bonds would be used for infrastructure costs on a roofed-stadium.

The city of Minneapolis’ financial commitment to the stadium would remain at $150 million, with the legislation granting the city flexibility in the future use of the Minneapolis Convention Center tax.

The Vikings’ commitment to the stadium project is yet to be determined.

The team would be allowed to keep revenue from stadium naming rights, ticket fees, other sources of revenue.

The proposed state Stadium Authority would oversee construction of the stadium, working with the city and the team.

In defending the proposal, Republicans argue that general obligation bonding is a stable funding source and will reduce the overall cost of the stadium project, as interest rates for these bonds are lower than for appropriation bonds.

The bonding bill in which the stadium bonding would be included would also include other projects.