Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


House passes stadium bill, but NFL is not pleased

Stadium bill overhaul makes Vikings pay more, state less; Senser exhibits released; report criticizes GOP financial management; retooled bonding bill passes; and more.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, the stadium's chief House Author

So is another $105 million like saying “no”? The AP story on last night’s House stadium debate says: “In a sign of the tough road ahead, the chamber swiftly overhauled the $975 million proposal to raise by $105 million the amount the team would kick in, with support from both Republicans and Democrats.”

The PiPress story says the NFL is not happy about that extra $105 million: “Eric Grubman, the NFL’s executive vice president of venture and business operations, cautioned Monday that amending the bill to require the Vikings to pay more or use sports gambling to help finance the state’s contribution are deal breakers as far as the NFL is concerned. ‘After months of negotiation and compromise and the building of a legislative coalition, albeit a fragile one, any meaningful change of the bill drastically changes the probability of success,’ Grubman told the Pioneer Press. ‘You can’t change the deal at the last minute.’ ” What do these legislators think the NFL is made of? Money?

At the Strib, Mike Kaszuba and Rachel Stassen Berger write: “The Minnesota Vikings won a decisive and long-awaited political victory late Monday when the House passed a public subsidy package for a new stadium, sending the project marching toward final passage at the state Capitol. The final vote came [after] months of intense lobbying by Gov. Mark Dayton and the team, and produced a relatively easy 73-58 approval in the House. The stadium project could go to the Senate for a vote as soon as today. After the House and Senate work through their differences, it could be ready for Dayton to sign into law by the end of the week. … The House vote — the first of at least three more to come if the measure is to become law — aired out all the long simmering issues over government subsidies for pro-sports palaces. Those against it complained that it represented misplaced priorities, has an uncertain funding mechanism and helps out a billionaire who doesn’t deserve the break. Those for it said the Vikings are a state asset worth saving, the project would employ  job-hungry building trades and would help Minneapolis thrive. And then there were those who said it is just time just to stop talking and start doing. ‘[Time to] get it out of our hair,’  Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, told colleagues urging a yes vote.” … No matter what it costs.

At MPR, Jon Collins, Catharine Richert and Tim Nelson report, saying: “The debate put some lawmakers, particularly Republicans, in a tough spot. They’ve been torn between constituents who believe that the plan is too expensive for the state and that the expected gambling revenue will fall short, and die-hard fans and business leaders who fear the team will leave Minnesota without a new stadium. Some opponents, like Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, opposed the use of gambling, which inordinately impacts poor people, to pay the state’s way. Other opponents, like St. Cloud State University economics professor Rep. King Banaian, R-St. Cloud, said it doesn’t make economic sense for the state to subsidize a monopoly business like the NFL. ‘There are other things you can do when you decide to raise money,’ Banaian said. ‘Why not a school? Why not a road? Why not a park? Why this?’ … The House did pass an amendment by Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, that would give the state 25 percent of the sale price if the team is sold. That amount declines one percent each year. The bill originally would have required that only 18 percent of the profits from the team’s sale would go to the state. The House also made the team responsible for operating cost overruns, rather than the Minnesota Stadium Authority.”

Post-verdict, Abby Simons of the Strib checks out the Senser family’s text messages: “The phone records of Senser, 45, and her husband, a restaurateur and ex-Minnesota Vikings star, were part of more than 140 exhibits released Monday, four days after a Hennepin County jury convicted her in the hit-and-run death of 38-year-old Anousone Phanthavong. … There were only occasional exchanges between Joe and Amy Senser, according to records. On Sept. 4, she wrote: ‘Joseph, God has shown me something, just now … I’m comforted and trust He will protect us. I will share more when you get home … I love you.’ Standing out among the exchanges is concern expressed by Joe Senser’s adult daughters, including Brittani Senser, 28, who testified that she compelled her stepmother to come forward because of speculation that Brittani was the driver.”

Stassen-Berger also files on the state GOP’s money woes. She says: “The Minnesota Republican Party Monday reported officials found ‘questionable decision-making and a lack of accountability’ among the ‘serious concerns’ in the party’s financial management over the past several years. Among the concerns: a more than five-fold increase in monthly credit cards bills, more than $120,000 in payments to Republican candidates and donors between 2009 and 2011, undocumented expense payments to a former executive director, more than $17,000 in payments to investigate legalization of medical marijuana, and questions of responsibility for a recount fund, which owes attorneys more than $719,000 for conducting the 2010 gubernatorial recount. Despite the litany of examples of ‘misreporting’ and concerns, the internal review of finances found no ‘evidence of theft on the part of anyone’ at the Republican Party.” I think your average stoner could manage money better than those guys.

Richert’s story at MPR includes this: “Lawyers representing the Republican Party during the recount say the party owes them money, even though they were asked to bill Count Them All Properly in the spring of 2011. A $1,003 mileage reimbursement to Ryan Griffin, the party’s executive director under [former chairman Tony] Sutton, is also unaccounted for, according to the report. Griffin did not return the committee’s calls to get more details on the reimbursement, and $14,000 he was paid for legal services. The committee also wanted to question Griffin about work done by Tim Goer of TG Med who, among other things, researched the validity to medical marijuana. Goer told the committee he had a verbal agreement but no written contract with Griffin to do the research. Goer said he did not save his work and wrote few reports on his research, according to the report. … Some members of the committee said they wished they had been given more oversight over Sutton’s financial decisions, particularly with big-ticket items including more than $200,000 paid to Strother Communications to rebrand the party, and the more than $1 million paid to law firm Trimble and Associates for its work on the 2008 U.S. Senate recount and the 2010 gubernatorial recount.” “Rebrand the party”? As what — “Fiscal Leadership for the 21st Century”?

Prior to all the stadium action, the House did assemble a bonding bill a bit fatter than its first version. Jennifer Brooks at the Strib says: “ The Minnesota House has signed off on a $566 million bonding bill that would fund construction and preservation projects across the state. The capital projects bill will fund bricks-and-mortar projects across the state, from flood mitigation to repairs to the crumbling state Capitol. It passed the House Monday by a vote of 99-32. … The final version of the bill includes millions for flood mitigation, bridge and road construction, and repairs to crumbling infrastructure across the state — including $44 million to begin repairs on the aging state Capitol. The bill now heads to the Senate … The half-billion dollar capital-projects bill expanded over the weekend from an earlier total of $496 million. The vote on the bill was delayed last Friday, amid concerns about lopsided funding between the state’s two public higher education systems. On Friday, the University of Minnesota system was slated to receive $54 million, mostly for maintenance and repair projects around its campuses, while the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system would have gotten $144 million. Over the weekend, negotiators gave the U of M system an extra $10 million and reduced MnSCU funding by $12 million, narrowing the funding gap to $64 million and $132 million respectively.”

Also, just because there is no specific allotment for a Saints stadium in downtown St. Paul, that doesn’t mean the idea is dead. Bill Salisbury of the PiPress says: “While a House bonding measure makes no provision for the $27 million St. Paul requested for a new regional ballpark in Lowertown, that doesn’t mean the project is dead. St. Paul could compete with other cities for funding from a new $50 million pot of money set aside for economic development projects in a $496 million public works bill passed by the House on Monday, May 7. In a rare show of bipartisan cooperation, it was approved 99-32.”