A bipartisan group of state lawmakers on Monday unveiled the long-awaited bill that could free the Minnesota Vikings from the hell that is the Metrodome.
As expected, the legislation outlines two ways to fund a $791 million new Vikings stadium. The first uses existing Minneapolis city taxes to build a new stadium on the site of the Metrodome. The second would impose a cornucopia of new taxes on hotels, rental cars and sports memorabilia in municipalities that sign up to be part of the funding plan.
The Vikings would kick in $264 million — or about a third — up front, leaving taxpayers to pony up $527 million to be paid back over 40 years.
The team’s Metrodome lease expires after the 2011 season, and Vikings officials have said they won’t sign a new lease without a stadium deal in place.
Lawmakers pitched the new taxes Monday as a way to have those who use the stadium pay for it. A new sports-themed lottery is also part of the mix.
“Contrary to the anti-stadium soundbites, I am confident that this is the time to address this issue, and ensure the pride of Minnesota, the Minnesota Vikings, remain a strong component for our state,” said Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
However, there are several big problems with this proposal.
First, the city of Minneapolis has been cool to using the taxes that are currently paying off its convention center for a new stadium. And Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the powerful Minnesota Chamber of Commerce have traditionally been opposed to new taxes of any kind.
Pawlenty and many lawmakers have also stressed there are more pressing issues to focus on in the closing weeks of the Legislature — including balancing the state budget and funding K-12 education. And while this bill calls for no state funding, just two weeks remain in the 2010 legislative session. It will be a miracle if this bill gets to the floor of either chamber for a vote — let alone out of committee.
But the biggest problem with this bill is the whole “beneficiaries pay” idea.
Phil Krinkie, president of the Taxpayer’s League of Minnesota, scoffed at the idea that hotel, rental car and jersey purchases would only affect Vikings fans. And I have to agree with him.
Yes, the bill proposes taxes on sports memorabilia — which includes Vikings jerseys and the like — and hotel rooms and rental cars — which out-of-town Vikings fans could conceivably use when in Minneapolis to see their team play. But a lot of non-Vikings fans — hell, even non-football fans — buy and/or use these items, too. And that’s not fair.
Why not tax actual Viking tickets? Or even season tickets? The team has an estimated 55,000 season ticket holders. A $100 tax on season ticket purchases would bring in $5.5 million a year alone. That seems more like an actual “beneficiary” helping pay for a new stadium than a 12-year-old buying a new pack of baseball cards or a family from Idaho crashing in the Twin Cities for the night during their cross-country road trip.
Recession-weary residents aren’t going to like the idea of new taxes. And the city of Minneapolis isn’t on board with using its taxes to foot the stadium bill either.
Neither of these funding options has been thought out enough to become a reality — especially in a matter of two weeks.