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May 03, 2012
Now Minnesota GOP wants roof on stadium, just doesn't know how to pay for it
In yet another bizarre twist in the Minnesota Vikings stadium saga, the state Republican plan to save money by omitting the planned roof appears to be on the verge of becoming the leading candidate for passage this week. Also, it no longer omits the roof:
- The key piece of the Republican plan is now that it would ditch all the plans for e-pulltabs, racinos, and other things that sound like they're out of Blade Runner in exchange for a much simpler funding scheme: The state would sell $250 million in bonds, and pay it back out of general state revenues.
- The roof is back on, in part because it's needed to keep up the pretense that this is a "community facility" that is worthy of a state bond sale. But because the bonds would only raise $250 million, and a roof would cost an additional $150 million, more money would be needed — house majority leader Matt Dean, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, has indicated that a source of roof funds "has yet to be determined."
Hazy though it may be, the plan is attracting backers, if only because stadium advocates are resigning themselves to the fact that there aren't the votes there to pass the original plan that has been in the works the past few months. Gov. Mark Dayton, who yesterday morning called it a "hare-brained scheme," yesterday afternoon said it was an idea "absolutely worth pursuing"; Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said it may work "as long as they don't change what we need, what we laid out at the beginning"; and Vikings stadium point man Lester Bagley spelled out what "need" means here, specifying that the team is in for "$427 million upfront and $13 million in annual operating costs," and anything beyond that needs to be fronted by taxpayers.
Whether any of this gets anywhere is yet to be seen — Democrats have been critical of taking money straight from the general fund, as have some Republicans. Also, bonding bills require a 60% supermajority in the state legislature, which could make this bill even tougher to pass than one involving gambling proceeds.
Meanwhile, the Star Tribune has discovered that Minneapolis' contribution toward the stadium — $150 million in upfront cash plus $7.5 million a year in operating costs, the latter rising 3% a year — would actually go up or down depending on sales tax receipts. According to the Star Trib, the city's contribution could end up anywhere from $592 million to $890 million, but that's over 30 years; it's a bit hard to calculate present value without more detailed data, but something in the range of $375 million to $525 million seems like a reasonable guess.
MinnPost ran a good breakdown last week of the different city funding mechanisms (albeit before this latest revelation about floating sales tax contributions) and why they'll cost so much in interest payments (short version: the city would be borrowing against future tax revenues that won't start coming in until 2020), arriving at a total figure of $675 million, though again that doesn't appear to be present value. (It also doesn't include the cost in property taxes of moving stadium land off the tax rolls, though that looks to be a relative drop in the bucket at about $400,000 a year.) As MinnPost's Ed Kohler remarks: "Is it just me, or is $675,000,000 far larger than the $10 million figure that's supposed to trigger a city wide referendum?" Even if a stadium bill somehow makes it through the legislature, in other words, this could still end up being decided in court.