Lawmakers missed their self-imposed deadline of Monday, April 30 in order to continue negotiations on three key bills: an omnibus tax bill, a capital bonding bill, and a bill for a new Vikings stadium. House Majority Leader Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) said Tuesday if House Republicans wanted to meet the deadline they could have but they are looking out for what is in the best interest of Minnesotans. The Republican-led Legislature decided to take a break Wednesday in hopes of reaching a deal with Governor Dayton on the three remaining items of legislative business. The House will reconvene Thursday at noon and the Senate, Thursday at 3:00 p.m. The last day the Legislature can meet in 2012 is May 21 or sooner if it exhausts its six remaining legislative days.
After months of negotiations, Republicans came forward Tuesday with an alternative plan to fund the construction of a new Vikings stadium through the bonding bill. GOP leaders said the previous proposal, a bill authored by Rep. Morrie Lanning (R-Moorhead) and Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Fairmount), did not have enough support from legislators. The lack of support was mostly due to its funding plan that would use proceeds from expanding lawful gambling to cover the State’s share of the stadium’s cost. Deputy Senate Majority Leader Julianne Ortman (R-Chanhassen) said Tuesday that this plan makes perfect sense and that funding the stadium through the bonding bill would be advantageous because it reduces the overall cost and is not paid for with gambling revenue. “Bonding for State infrastructure is what the State Legislature does,” she said.
Republican and DFL leadership met with Governor Dayton Wednesday to discuss the feasibility of the new plan. Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) characterized the meeting as “fruitful, direct, and outcome-based.” Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) said figuring out if general obligation bonds are appropriate will require a great deal of vetting. “General obligation bonds require a public purpose. There is a serious question whether a private tenant can enter into an exclusive 40-year lease of a public building and have that still meet the general purpose requirements under the Constitution,” the Minority Leader said. Bakk called on Senate Majority Leader David Senjem (R-Rochester) to let the Senate vote on the plan that has been sitting on the floor of the Senate. He said it has already been vetted, having passed through five Senate committees and received bipartisan votes in each committee. House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis) agreed, describing the previous plan as the only legitimate plan, having been through the committee process. “That is still a plan we need to move forward on,” Thissen said. Governor Dayton was slightly more optimistic and pronounced the new plan “absolutely worth pursuing.” However, much work needs to be done to flush out the details of the new stadium funding proposal.
Republicans admitted there were a lot of unanswered questions and even called the new plan “embryonic.” At this time, the proposal is not supported by the Vikings, the City of Minneapolis, or Governor Dayton. The Governor has been a long-time supporter of building a new stadium for the Vikings and included it as a key component of his jobs plan prior to the 2012 session.