Vikings stadium bill defeated in House Wednesday

Published 8:53 am Thursday, May 6, 2010

A bill for a new Vikings stadium lost ground Wednesday after being defeated in a key House committee, undergoing major surgery in a Senate panel and losing the spotlight to a court ruling over last year’s budget.

The bill’s Senate sponsor refused to declare it dead, but Gov. Tim Pawlenty said stadium discussions are “not helpful” as he and lawmakers grapple with the implications of a Supreme Court ruling overturning budget cuts he made last year.

“I would hope the Legislature would turn its attention to these budget issues, which are of constitutional magnitude,” Pawlenty said. “They are the first order of business, they are the most important order of business and we need to have focus on that.”

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Sen. Tom Bakk, the bill’s Senate sponsor, said the proposal could still find a way through the legislative process, but the new budget wrinkle doesn’t help its chances. The state constitution requires the Legislature to adjourn by May 17.

In two hearings, stadium backers took pointed questions from lawmakers about the proposal for a new $791 million facility.

A House state and local government operations panel rejected the proposal on a 10-9 vote.

The defeated bill would have tapped a stream of Minneapolis tax money now going to pay off bonds on the city’s convention center. It also would have established a new lottery scratch-off game and envisioned the team paying a third of the cost.

Hours later, a similar Senate government operations panel approved a different version of the bill on a 9-3 vote. The version that passed was significantly made over from the original bill, which would have raised taxes on jerseys, hotel rooms and car rentals.

The Senate bill now contains a plan to bring in an unspecified amount of money by selling permanent seats in the new stadium. Sen. Rick Olseen, a Democrat from Harris, said good seats could go for as much as $20,000.

Even so, Vikings executive Lester Bagley said a similar proposal for the Twins ballpark was scrapped because it didn’t bring in enough money.

The Senate bill doesn’t specify where the Vikings stadium would be built.

Minneapolis was an early focus, but City Council member Elizabeth Glidden outlined the city’s reservations about giving up convention center money. She said the state’s largest city shouldn’t have to finance a stadium alone.