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March 15, 2012
Vikings stadium bill hits roadblock at first hearing, could die entirely tomorrow
As promised, the Minnesota Vikings stadium bill got its first legislative hearing yesterday ... and promptly tripped over its own feet. After a two-hour-long hearing where the bill was savaged both by charitable gambling groups worried that they'll lose money if electronic pulltab gambling is approved to fund the stadium, and legislators worried that Gov. Mark Dayton's estimate that pulltabs would generate $62.5 million a year was pulled out of thin air, the bill was abruptedly pulled from discussion for retooling.
Exactly what the bill's sponsors can do to it to ease concerns remains unclear. One exchange at yesterday's hearing, as reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, went like this:
"In the event that not enough people gamble, what is the backup plan?" asked Sen. Pam Wolf, R-Spring Lake Park, who has co-authored a rival proposal to give the Vikings only a state loan for the project.
"We're working on that," said [Sen. Julie] Rosen, R-Fairmont.
She said perhaps a sports memorabilia tax or a special state lottery game for the stadium would "blink on" in case new gambling revenue falls short.
Meanwhile, the bill might not even survive long enough to be retooled in the senate: The state house needs to either hold a hearing on the stadium by tomorrow or grant the bill an exemption, and house speaker Kurt Zellers has indicated that he's not inclined to do the bill any special favors. He's officially noncommittal on what he'll do until tomorrow, though, so it looks like we'll have to wait 24 hours — and a lobbying-filled 24 hours they'll be, I'm sure — to find out whether the Vikings' latest attempt at getting taxpayer funds will fall as flat as all their previous ones.