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Vikings stadium setback: Key politicians say public vote needed

ST. PAUL -- A Vikings football stadium proposal suffered a setback today when legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton announced that a public vote will be needed to approve a sales tax increase to help pay for a stadium.

For months, stadium backers have said a public referendum would end the stadium's chances because there likely are not the votes to approve tax increases. The Vikings have said they need to know about a new stadium soon; their Metrodome lease expires at the end of this season and they want a new stadium deal by then.

A joint news release from legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton this afternoon said those in a Friday meeting did not think there were enough legislative votes to approve a stadium construction plan that did not include a public referendum. After considering it further, top policy makers today said they cannot approve any stadium plan without a referendum.

"Last Friday's meeting was very significant in eliminating one proposed source of financing for a people's stadium in either Ramsey County or Minneapolis, unless the Vikings are willing to endure the time delay and continuing uncertainty in obtaining voters' approval," Dayton said in a statement. "Given this reality, we are now actively assessing and discussing with the team other financing options."

Legislative leaders and Dayton did not comment on the referendum issue when they talked to reporters immediately after their Friday meeting.

Dayton plans a news conference to discuss the situation later today. So do the Vikings.

The news release indicated that a public referendum on a sales tax increase would be needed if the stadium were built either in Ramsey County, where the Vikings prefer, or Minneapolis, which is making its own bid to host a stadium.

Without a sales tax, there is no word on how a local government would fund the $350 million current plans require. The state would add another $300 million, also of unknown origin, with the Vikings funding the rest of what is planned to be a $1.1 billion stadium.

Dayton had planned to release his stadium construction plan Monday, with a special legislative session planned to begin Nov. 21, but it was not known how today's announcement affects the schedule.

Those at Friday's meeting, in person or via telephone, were Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, Sen. Julie Rosen, Sen. Terri Bonoff, Sen. Richard Cohen, House Speaker Kurt Zellers; Rep. Morrie Lanning, Rep. Paul Thissen, Rep. Terry Morrow, Dayton and Chairman Ted Mondale of the Sports Facilities Commission.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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.