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Three days of intense lobbying before Monday's stadium vote

There will be a lot of behind-closed-doors Minnesota history written in the next nearly 72 hours. Tom Scheck, at MPR, says: “The Minnesota House is set to vote on a Vikings stadium bill on Monday. That decision comes after GOP legislative leaders announced Thursday they were scrapping their alternate plan to borrow $250 million to pay for a stadium. The scheduled vote sets off an intense lobbying effort by both sides of the issue. … While most of the attention will be on the House, there appears to be an even deeper divide in the Senate. Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville said the opposition in his caucus is ‘large.. ‘From the perspective of Republicans getting in the business of subsidizing and favoring certain businesses like this is not something we should be doing’, Thompson said. GOP Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem is unsure there is enough support in the Senate to pass the bill. It may not matter if the House does not pass it. Two key Republicans say the governor could win Republican votes if he signs a bill that cuts business taxes.” So … a liberal governor can win support for a taxpayer-subsidized stadium for an exceedingly wealthy sports team owner … by cutting taxes for well-established businesses? Interesting.

(By the way, that bill signing for a cut in business taxes didn't quite happen, MinnPost's Joe Kimball reports. This morning, Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the bill, and the Republicans responded. )

Meanwhile, at the national stadium-watch site, Field of Schemes, Neil de Mause writes: “From the sound of things, the Republicans couldn't get enough support for their bill, so [they] threw up their hands and said, ‘Fine, vote for your fershlugginer bill with the e-pulltabs and the racinos and the gambling, feh.’ (Okay, they probably didn't say "feh.") Whether the old bill stands a chance of passage is totally unclear now — Zellers says he opposes it, and the only reason anyone was taking the new plan seriously is that the old one didn't have a ton of support. But then, when push comes to shove and commissioners start rattling move-threat sabers, a lot of strange things can happen. It's going to be an interesting Monday — if things don't change another five or six times between now and then.”

De Mause also links to a fascinating piece at Deadspin on the topic of why exactly team owners “need” taxpayer-subsidized stadiums and arenas. Jeremy Repanich, a former employee of the Seattle SuperSonics, a team that did leave town, after 41 years, when they didn’t get the arena they wanted, writes: “There are a finite number of rich people in any given city, with a finite amount of money to spend on sports. When a team can make the same amount of money selling two courtside seats as they can selling an entire section of the upper bowl, they'll target their sales strategies accordingly. Getting the affluent to your games means pampering them the minute they walk through the doors. At Safeco and CenturyLink fields, the Mariners and Seahawks do just that; they're gleaming palaces of conspicuous consumption that ensure that fans paying top dollar are given a premium experience with food, drinks, and seatside service delivered efficiently and comfortably. The Sonics couldn't do that."

The GleanWith the stadium, and stadium-related benefits in mind, Mike Ozanian at Forbes writes today, “Before politicians vote Monday on a proposal for a new stadium for the National Football League’s Minnesota Vikings, they should read the report below by UBS. The stadium plan calls for the $975 million stadium to be largely paid for by taxpayers, which polls have shown the public is against. It is easy to see why: 54% of the cost would come from Minnesota’s taxpayers, far exceeding the public’s contribution for all but three of the last 10 NFL stadiums. … The upshot from UBS: “Independent academic research studies consistently conclude that new stadiums and arenas have no measurable effect on the level of real income or employment in the metropolitan areas in which they are located. Feasibility studies for professional sports facilities often fail to account for the substitution effect."

At MPR, Tim Post files a story on the difficulties school districts have in moving to four-day school weeks: “Minnesota school officials considering the change say it's becoming harder to convince state education officials to allow them to shorten their school week. They note that the state's application process is much more complex than it was in the past. The state's reasons [for] denial of the Sleepy Eye request were spelled out in a letter from [Education Commissioner Brenda] Cassellius. Among them was a concern that half of the district's 600 students who qualify for free and reduced lunch wouldn't get a meal at school one day of the week. Cassellius also expressed concern that, with a shorter week, student academic achievement wouldn't improve. Cassellius also wrote that she did not think it was worth reconfiguring the school week, just to save $80,000 a year — money she said the district could find in its $1.6 million reserve fund.”

According to the AP, Amy Senser has settled the civil suit brought against her by the family of the man she was convicted of killing last August. “The settlement was announced Friday by attorneys for family of Anousone Phanthavong, who died when Senser hit him near a Minneapolis freeway exit ramp last August. Terms weren't disclosed.”

One of the rarest things in sportswriting is the grizzled columnist who says the local team should spend less money. At the PiPress, Tom Powers goes there today, albeit with tongue mostly in cheek: “Some people just don't do well with money. The Twins, apparently, should be counted among them. When the organization was lean and scrappy, it fielded a solid, farm-grown team. One mistake could set the whole organization back, so we almost never saw a major mistake. Veteran stars who became too expensive for the small-market Twins were swapped for legitimate prospects. Scouting and talent evaluation were paramount to success. Some called it the right way to do things; others called it the cheap way. We all were agreed it was the Twins' way. And it was good enough for us. Then came Target Field, a wonderful ballpark that also happened to be a cash cow. Suddenly, the payroll jumped by between $30 million and $40 million. That's what ownership promised, and its intentions were good. Everything went to hell. The Twins were like hillbillies who won the lottery. They didn't know what to do with all the cash.”

Also sports (and money)-related, Rochelle Olson of the Strib says the U may have a hard time making its case for not paying out $1 million to the assistant coach who says he got a firm offer from Tubby Smith: “The University of Minnesota's general counsel ran up against pointed questioning Thursday during state Supreme Court oral arguments in the appeal of a $1 million jury award to Jimmy Williams over his aborted hiring by men's basketball coach Tubby Smith. ‘It's pretty hard to defend the actions of the university here,’ Justice G. Barry Anderson told general counsel Mark Rotenberg. The university is appealing a state Court of Appeals decision in 2011 that upheld a Hennepin County jury's $1 million award to Williams, a former and would-be Gophers assistant basketball coach.”

Every city loves high-tech jobs … until they stop paying their bills. Peter Passi at the Duluth News Tribune reports: “One of Duluth’s largest technology employers is again facing liens for unpaid tax bills. Since November of last year, 50 Below Sales & Marketing has amassed an additional $1.3 million in state tax liens, bringing its total tax debt to more than $1.6 million, according to documents on file at the St. Louis County Recorder’s Office. While Dave Hogge, one of 50 Below’s principal partners, would not consent to a full on-the-record interview with the News Tribune on Thursday, he did state: ‘A payment plan is in place. And this will be resolved by August.’ 50 Below designs and develops large-scale web applications and marketing campaigns for corporate clients.”

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Comments (1)

GOP looking like amateurs

There's a price to be paid for voting in people with no legislative experience--something that is now in vogue with the GOP, especially among tea partiers. Any incumbent, regardless of experience and effectiveness, becomes the enemy. Traitors, even.

But here we are with this current crop of GOP legislators, many of whom are so inexperienced (and proud of it) that they can't get their work done. Sending the governor an endless string of bills clearly destined for the veto pen does not qualify as getting your work done. And Dayton has been a very available governor (unlike Pawlenty who closed the office at the Capitol that is reserved for the governor and staff, and often--very often--refused to meet with DFL leaders).

We've seen Zellers bring bills to the House floor only to see them fail by one vote in his own caucus. Amateur! Senjem is the titual head of the Senate, but is ineffective at herding the GOP tea party cats.

Any change the conservatives will learn their lesson? I doubt it.