A few of the more shiny nuggets from reporting on the Vikings stadium bill last night …
• Don Davis and Danielle Nordine of the Forum papers write: “Many senators, especially conservative Republicans, prefer fees to all users of a new stadium to eliminate the need for gambling to support construction. Some stadium opponents said they would have supported the plan if it included user fees instead of gaming. ‘This sends the message that people who are going to use this facility are going to share in the cost of construction and operation,’ said Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, who proposed the fees. Howe said he wants to see a stadium built, but discussions have not been open for new ideas. … Howe’s user fee plan would apply to all users of the stadium, while the Rosen bill would have charged fees only at Vikings games. Fans would support user fees, Howe said. ‘They want us to build a stadium,’ he said. ‘They’re willing to pay for it.’ The Vikings have said they will not support user fees, but Howe said: ‘I don’t believe that. I think we can work together.’ ” … As long as we stick to the NFL’s script, you mean.
• Brian Bakst at the AP poses the $25 million or $105 million question: “Throughout the franchise’s latest push for a publicly subsidized football stadium, team executives insisted that the private contribution be capped at $427 million. The figure was ‘set in stone,’ Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said as recently as last week. Now it is time to find out just how true that is. … To be sure, Wilf won’t be cutting a personal check — at least not for most of it. The team expects to tap into an NFL loan program for as much as $200 million. It could also cash in on naming rights, sell seat licenses and leverage other new revenue streams from a state-of-the art-stadium to make good on its debt. Following Tuesday night’s Senate vote, Bagley said the team is still standing by the amount it pledged earlier, but he acknowledged the final package is ‘to be determined.’ … Sen. David Thompson, a Lakeville Republican, questioned why the public was shelling out so much on a stadium and becoming so dependent on gambling proceeds to satisfy bonds. ‘I admire millionaires and billionaires,’ Thompson said. ‘But my goodness, we shouldn’t take money from other folks and redistribute it to them.’ ” The senator will, of course, remember that during the next tax debate.
• Tom Scheck at MPR says: “The amendment that garnered the most debate would replace electronic pull-tab gambling with user fees as the main state financing mechanism for the stadium. Republican Sen. John Howe of Red Wing proposed the amendment because he opposes an expansion of gambling. He said fees on the sale of NFL merchandise, on the media and on stadium naming rights were better options because they would come from the team’s share of stadium profits. ‘Last year at the end of session we heard ‘Tax the rich. Tax the rich.’ The owner of the Minnesota Vikings is a billionaire,’ Howe said. The Senate approved Howe’s amendment, a move that put a carefully crafted deal with the team in jeopardy. But minutes later, several DFL lawmakers asked to reconsider and voted down the amendment. … [DFL Sen. John] Marty said lawmakers should ignore threats that the team might leave the state if it doesn’t have its way. ‘I understand that you have to play along because other communities do. That’s the line I keep hearing. But even if you feel that we have no choice and we have to play along, I seriously question the wisdom of saying we have to offer the all-time, number one biggest taxpayer subsidy for any professional franchise for any sport in professional history,’ he said.” But Senator, that’s what we were told to do …
A Farmers’ Market glut? Andy Greder at the PiPress reports on a troubling phenomenon: “This season, more than 156 markets will open, an increase from 100 in 2009 and 86 in 2007, according to a directory from Minnesota Grown, a Department of Agriculture program. The U.S. has had a four-fold increase in farmers’ markets from 1,775 in 1994 to 7,175 in 2011, according to self-reported data at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. ‘It’s just too many,’ [Jessica] Gilbertson said. She needed to sell at markets from St. Paul to Lindstrom nearly every day to produce the farm’s first profit in seven years. ‘You have to run more markets to make the same (money). When you don’t have people at the market, it just doesn’t pay to be there. (Farmers) are going to realize … they are choking themselves out.’ Two university economists said farmers’ markets might be reaching a level of saturation. ‘There is a sort of diminishing return’, said Rob King, a professor in the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota. ‘As (farmers) go to more and more markets, it takes a lot of time for them to do that. And as the number of markets grows — and if it grows faster than the number of consumers — then we may see a new market cannibalize an existing market.’ “
All their work would be for naught if they fail to deliver the tax cuts they were sent to deliver … . Bill Salisbury of the PiPress reports that that business tax cut, vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton last week … has risen like Lazarus: “Five days after Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a more generous tax-cut bill, an all-Republican conference committee passed a bill that the authors say removes all the provisions the governor opposed. The previous bill would have cut taxes $200 million over three years and left a $145 million hole in the next two-year budget. ‘There’s no reason for the governor to veto this bill,’ said House Taxes Committee Chair Greg Davids, R-Preston. ‘The governor needs to sign this bill to give the people of Minnesota a win.’ The bill would provide businesses with 50 or fewer employees an upfront sales-tax exemption for capital equipment purchases, cutting their taxes by $12.6 million in the year starting July 1. It would freeze the statewide property tax on businesses for one year, resulting in a $10.2 million tax cut.” At some point, he must have said that thousands of new jobs are guaranteed, right?
In the annals of understatements … Andy Rathbun of the PiPress reports: “Arrested after allegedly driving a stolen vehicle to a western Wisconsin home, carjacking a man at knifepoint and then throwing bottles of beer at police as he led them on a 24-mile chase, Jonlee J. Goers came to a sobering conclusion. ‘I have to stop doing meth, it makes me do stupid s—,’ he told officers, according to a criminal complaint. Goers, 30, of Minneapolis was charged May 2 in Dunn County Circuit Court with armed robbery, taking hostages, false imprisonment, operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent and taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent — all felonies. He was also charged in St. Croix County with fleeing police and operating a vehicle while intoxicated (fourth offense).” BTW: Check out the mug shot. Meth adds the years fast.
Who knew there was this much jing in food-stamp fraud? David Hanners of the PiPress writes: “Khaffak Ansari, 46, of Arden Hills owned Stryker Market in St. Paul’s West Side neighborhood. Federal agents alleged he’d cheated the government out of more than $2.5 million (Ansari contended it was less) by trading cash for food-stamp benefits that the government reimbursed him for. In a hearing in federal court in St. Paul, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson sentenced Ansari to three years and five months in prison, and ordered him to pay $2.4 million in restitution.”
The ACLU has (another) beef with the Voter ID-pushing Minnesota Voters Alliance. Says the Strib’s Jim Ragsdale: “The Minnesota Voters Alliance, which is suing state and local officials over allegations of fraud in Minnesota elections, has been accused of not registering as a charitable organization. The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed the complaint Wednesday with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. The ACLU and the Alliance are on opposite sides in the state’s battle over changes to Minnesota’s voting and registration laws, which includes a photo ID requirement for all voters. That issue is to be decided by voters when they consider a proposed constitutional amendment in November.”
Good column by the Strib’s Jon Tevlin on the not-exactly-high-brow carnival surrounding the stadium action at the Capitol: “I like football and watch it most weekends. But if the Vikings moved, I would simply find something else to do for three hours on Sunday, most likely another taxpayer-supported activity. So I watch football the way I watch politics, not so much because I’m fervent about the outcome, I’m just interested in the story lines. Those happened inside the Capitol the past two days, where legislators argued over the real issues before them. Not for economic vitality or some sort of group hug that football supposedly gives us. They argued for self-preservation, political agendas and, of course, for a little taste of the sugar. … Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis, for example, saw the open purse as a chance to grab some money for the poor, requesting $400 million in bonding to fix up public housing ‘creating the same number of [construction] jobs as the stadium, coincidentally.’ Or not coincidentally. Rep. Morrie Lanning R-Moorhead, sponsor of the stadium bill, called Clark’s amendment ‘not germane’ and ‘another attempt to spend money we don’t have.’ I swear, he did this with a straight face. Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, got all kinds of folksy, crafting a rambling soliloquy that included a quote from the Grateful Dead: ‘What a long, strange trip it’s been.’ Strange? You know it’s strange when perhaps the best line Monday night came from Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, known for the occasional gaffe. She said that with gambling as a source of funding, the structure ‘becomes the stadium that losers built.’ Nice.”