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Political football: Like stadium backers, this group is seeking creative fundraising – but for the poor

"Suddenly, a blitz of stadium ideas," trumpeted a headline on a recent front-page story in the Strib detailing concerted efforts by Minnesota legislators and others to brainstorm better-than-a-garage-sale ideas to fund a new Minnesota Vikings stadium.

Not to minimize the economic and entertainment values for the state of more awesome digs for the pro team, but isn't there also an argument in these times of dramatic increases in homelessness and poverty and a crying need for free food to invest in people, too? Where's the blitz? Who's brainstorming there?


Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, for one, thanks to a bunch of folks at St. Paul Johnson High School: school counselor Dan Kennedy and junior Arthur Nguyen among them. Kennedy came up with the idea for the legislation Anderson is shepherding: a checkoff that would allow Minnesota taxpayers to easily donate to homelessness prevention programs and food shelf services.

Simply, Minnesota taxpayers could donate $1 or more by checking a box on their state income tax forms — not unlike the state's current Nongame Wildlife checkoff — or on claims for property tax refunds. Corporations could make donations too. It could raise $300,000 in the first year and more thereafter [PDF], according to the state Department of Finance.

State Sen. Ellen Anderson
State Sen. Ellen Anderson

On Tuesday we'll see whether the proposal is included in the Senate Taxes Committee omnibus tax bill. It's also been under consideration in the House.

Crunching numbers
Anderson says the proposal has a "pretty good chance" of inclusion and supports it in part because she thinks it will "bring in a whole new set of taxpayers" while not endangering current state funding for such programs. "This has to supplement existing funding,'' Anderson said.

Even in a state budget deficit year?

Consider the fears of Hunger Solutions Minnesota's Executive Director Colleen Moriarity:  "We're concerned about this being a replacement for the funding the state already has in the budget'' for food shelves. They get $1.2 million annually.

Her number-cruncher, James Redmond, did some "back-of-the-envelope-type figuring" by looking back at some similar fundraisers both nationally and in the state, which led him to believe the checkoff could eventually raise about $1 million a year — that's less than they receive exclusively now. The checkoff funds apparently would be shared.

Some legislators worry the state's tax forms could become cluttered with such checkoff boxes.

As my father used to say, in the end, all will be revealed. In the meantime, consider these numbers:

• In 2008, 491,000 Minnesotans were in poverty.

• The numbers of Minnesota's homeless have increased 22 percent since three years ago, according to the recent official tally conducted by Wilder Research, making the rate of homelessness 18 per every 10,000 people in the state today.

• 68 percent of homeless people live in the metro area, that same area where a new stadium would make its home.

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Comments (10)

Football teams may come and go, but the poor are always with us.

"Check-off" donations sound good on paper. However the implementation of such programs will always be subject to the whims of the prevailing majority political party at any given time.

For instance, I can envision an "ACORN Food Shelf" being rapidly ramped up and funded, while traditional providers of such services, organizations such as Catholic Charities, for instance, are shut out whenever the Democrat party controls the purse strings.

And, of course the opposite will be true whenever the political tides have turned.

Why not just add a dollar for dollar tax deduction for charitable donations?

Heyyyy, I have an idea! The Vikings only play a dozen games or so a year in their stadium, right? Why not build a combo homeless shelter - Vikings stadium? Heck, hire the homeless to work at the new stadium. Two problems solved!

I have several questions:

1. Will there be a stadium check-off too?
2. Tommy, before you slam ACORN, ya might not want to use Catholics as shining examples of virtue.
3. "All Will Be Revealed"?....your father and Led Zeppelin.

I probably not in favor of this program as I will still be forced to pay for pro sports programs (thru beer or food taxes in Mpls/Hennepin county) while the social stability of poor relief at all levels will become more and more voluntary. By the way Thomas I swear you are becoming more delusional by the day. I betcha over 40% of those at Catholic charities are Dems. you gotta get out more often.

Thomas: Except for a few voter registration workers who used made-up names like Mickey Mouse to pad their piece-work paychecks and perhaps one office employee, ACORN has been found innocent of all the bogus charges and accusations thrown at it by those who would prefer that poor people not vote because they vote for Democrats.

The sleazebag who made the phony videotapes will, however, probably be going to jail.

"...before you slam ACORN, ya might not want to use Catholics as shining examples of virtue."

"I betcha over 40% of those at Catholic charities are Dems."

Mea culpa; mea maxima culpa! ;-)

Quousque tandem abutere, Swiftee, patientia nostra?

Why not pull tab machines in bars and fraternal organizations. $500,000,000 (that's millions) a year to the state, help for small buisness owners and it provide charities with adaquate funding.

The check of box is a good idea, people who want to give (read be taxed) they have a chance the same as individuals who want to play pull tabs and have some fun.

We are quickly closing on a point where poltical correctness and reality meet and common sense must be employeed.

Yes, use taxes to finance stadiums and gimmicks to pay for schools. That's a sustainable strategy.