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Vikings stadium bill clears first hurdle, would rely on borrowing

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he would not accept tax increases to fund a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, so the proposal's House author took out new taxes and decided to borrow money instead.

Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids, also changed the bill so the new stadium only could be in Minneapolis.

A second House hearing on the bill is set for this morning after the House Local Government Division approved the altered measure 6-4 just after midnight today. A Senate bill also is up for a committee hearing this morning.

Both of today's committees are expected to be tougher on the bill than the Tuesday night meeting.

The proposal is to provide part of the funding for a $791 million stadium at an undetermined location. Originally, the bill called for increases taxes to bring in $527 million, but Solberg said that he decided to change funding to borrowed money after Pawlenty told reporters on Tuesday that he would reject the tax provisions.

The revised bill would require the team to provide money up front, then the Metropolitan Council would borrow money by selling bonds. A portion of an existing Minneapolis Convention Center tax would be used to help pay off the debt once the center's debt is retired in 2020.

The Vikings' Metrodome lease expires after next season and team owners say they will not play in the dome after that.

Legislative leaders say they will not give a stadium plan special consideration as the 2010 legislative session winds down. Lawmakers must adjourn by May 17. And Pawlenty gives the proposal little chance.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.