And here we go again, again: Minnesota state rep Morrie Lanning and state senator Julie Rosen, authors of the Vikings stadium bill they swear they finally will really introduce later this week, say that it will include a provision to exempt local governments from the requirement to hold a referendum on any sales tax hikes used to help fund a stadium. You know, just like the Twins got for their stadium five years ago.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that “there were signs Monday that the referendum issue was leaving legislators conflicted,” especially those legislators who voted for the Twins’ referendum exemption but didn’t realize they’d be setting a precedent. Right now it sounds like a no-referendum pledge would face an uphill battle — if a county that is desperate to raise its own sales taxes for the sake of a billionaire sports team owner can even be found — but these things have been known to change once the lobbyists get ahold of them.
The one thing that’s clear: If a referendum were held, the Vikings would likely go down to massive defeat. Of course, for some elected officials that’s a sign not that there’s something wrong with the stadium deal, but that there’s something wrong with democracy: “I don’t believe in government by referendum. It lets elected officials off the hook for making judgments about these things,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, while Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson worried that a referendum requirement “would really sabotage the effort to build a stadium in this time of economic turmoil.”