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Vikings stadium moves forward in Minn. Senate

ST. PAUL -- Momentum continues today for the Vikings stadium construction effort with the Minnesota Senate jobs committee approving the bill early this afternoon, sending it to what may be its final committee stop before a full Senate vote.

"We have a few more hurdles to clear, but we're encouraged with today's action and last night's action," Lester Bagley, a lobbyist for the Vikings, said of the bill's recent progression through committees.

The bill was adopted on a unanimous voice vote in the Senate jobs committee this afternoon.

The Senate Finance Committee is expected to debate the bill soon.

It is time for all legislators to have a chance to vote on the proposal, supporters have said.

"The longer we wait to do these things, the more they cost," Sen. Dave Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said.

Bill author Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said many of the details of the bill can be worked out when the Senate and House combine their versions of the bill after both chambers pass their own bills.

Legislators are looking at ways to help St. Paul fund some of its sports facilities or pay off debt in the bill with a main purpose of building a Vikings stadium in Minneapolis.

With legislative leaders trying to end the 2012 legislative session no later than Monday, little time remains to work out a final stadium bill. There appears to be plenty of support to get the bills votes in the full House and Senate, but it is not clear if there are enough votes to pass.

"It's going to be a tight vote," Bagley said.

If the proposal passes the Legislature and is signed by Gov. Mark Dayton, the Minneapolis City Council must approve the plan if a stadium is to be built.

The House Ways and Means Committee Monday night approved a version of the stadium bill, sending it to the House.

The House committee approved the bill on a voice vote, which means votes on the controversial issue are not recorded. It was difficult to tell the actual split among committee members.

House leaders have not decided when the stadium bill will be debated on the floor.

The Vikings say they need a new stadium because their home for 30 years, the downtown Minneapolis Metrodome, does not allow them to make enough money. Their Metrodome lease expired Feb. 1, but they are committed to playing there at least one more season.

Without a new stadium, Dayton and other stadium supporters say the Vikings may leave Minnesota.

Under bills offered by Rosen and Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, the state's $398 million portion of construction costs would be funded by allowing charities that sponsor pull tab and bingo games to use electronic devices. Dayton administration officials say the electronic devices would increase gambling enough that the added revenue from taxes on charities could pay off stadium loans.

The Vikings and other private funds, such as National Football League loans, would provide $427 million and Minneapolis would add $150 million.

Danielle Nordine and Don Davis report for Forum Communications Co.