The Senate passed its version of the Vikings stadium bill shortly before midnight last night. Baird Helgeson of the Strib writes: “The Minnesota Vikings won another testy political battle late Tuesday at the state Capitol, but were left with a project that was much less appealing to the team. The Senate ended an 11-hour debate by approving plans for a new $1 billion stadium on a 38 to 28 vote amid cheers from Vikings fans who could be heard throughout the state Capitol. … The Senate version differs dramatically from the bill the House passed the day before, adding 10 percent user fees for tickets and parking during NFL games to help pay the state’s share. With chances for an overall tax bill in doubt, the Senate also tacked on a provision to force Internet retailers to collect state taxes and another that would give tax breaks for expansion at the Mall of America. … Stadium supporters warned against pushing the team too far. ‘It seems like we’re hanging [the Vikings] upside down and trying to get all the loose change out of their pocket,’ said a frustrated Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, the chief Senate stadium author. ‘We just keep smacking them around.’ “
Well before the Senate vote, it was clear that there were going to be a few more changes that wouldn’t make the Vikings happy. Mike Kaszuba of the Strib was saying at mid-evening last night: “[I]n another sign that the Vikings were in a bruising political fight at the state Capitol, the Senate stripped language that would give Vikings owner Zygi Wilf or anyone else whose family are owners of the football team an exclusive right for five years to bring in a professional soccer team to the new stadium.
The chief Senate stadium author meanwhile unveiled a series of new user fees — a departure from what the House passed late Monday — that would be used to help pay the state’s share of the $1 billion project. … the new user fees proposed by Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, seemed to be a concession to a relatively large bloc of Senate members who want the fees to help pay for part of the controversial project. The team however has generally been opposed to user fees. The user fees include a 10 percent fee on the sale or rental of stadium suites, a 10 percent fee on parking within a half mile of the stadium during National Football League events and a 6.875 percent fee on team jerseys and other league-licensed products sold at the stadium.”
At Time magazine, Sean Gregory shines a spotlight on a St. Cloud legislator. “King Banaian is a rare specimen. First off, he’s a professor from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota who teaches a course on the economics of sports stadiums. So he’s plenty familiar with one of the rare economic arguments that almost everyone in his field can agree on: the public benefits of sports facilities don’t outweigh the public cost. But Banaian is also a state politician, a Republican member of Minnesota’s House of Representatives. So he now has a chance to apply his ivory-tower research to the real world, as the state is embroiled in an emotional battle to keep its pro football team, the Vikings, in Minnesota. … Banaian has run the numbers, and believes the $443 million public cost is too prohibitive, especially in a down economy. … Economic study after economic study has shown that the promises of stadium windfalls don’t come true. One major reason is the substitution effect: if people don’t spend their discretionary dollars on season tickets and hot dogs and parking and other costs associated with attending sports events, they’ll spend it on other activities and businesses within a metropolitan area (the movies, the car dealership, restaurants). Or maybe individuals will — gasp — save that Vikings money, which might not help local GDP in the short-term, but could greatly benefit an individual down the road.
The Chicago-based “collections” agency lacerated by AG Lori Swanson for heavy-handed practices in metro area hospitals has friends in high places. Corey Mitchell of the Strib writes: “Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has asked Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson to back off of Accretive Health Inc. until she’s met company executives to discuss her concerns about its collection practices. In an undated letter addressed to Swanson, Emanuel defends Chicago-based Accretive, which served as a financial consultant at Fairview hospitals until last month when she released a report that alleged the company violated federal and state laws, including those regulating debt collection and patient privacy, to collect debt from patients. Emanuel’s letter did not directly address any of the concerns Swanson’s report raised, but said Accretive Health ‘does important work for hospitals and good things for our City, particularly for our neediest citizens.’ ” And Emanuel has friends even higher up.
Peter Frost of the Chicago Tribune notes: “Accretive, one of Chicagoland’s fastest-growing companies, received $6 million in tax increment financing from the City of Chicago in 2010 to help it build a service center on South LaSalle Street that was projected to employ 650 people. The company also received a mixture of tax and job-training credits from the state of Illinois valued at $1.42 million. The mayor has held up the company as an example of worthwhile TIF investment. Emanuel toured the LaSalle Street offices of the company in March, talking with executives and interacting with workers as part of what his administration said was an effort to understand what businesses have experienced and identify opportunity for future potential growth.”
It’ll be a rematch in Wisconsin. Jason Stein and Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel write: “Shrugging off millions of dollars spent by labor groups to defeat him, Tom Barrett walked to victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary and set up a more taxing sprint toward June 5 — a historic recall that will be a rematch of his unsuccessful 2010 race against Gov. Scott Walker. In the recall primary, The Associated Press called the race for the Milwaukee mayor over former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, showing that more than $4 million doesn’t necessarily buy a close race. Even as Barrett was campaigning to the primary win Tuesday, Walker was barnstorming the state, showing the fight he will bring to what is expected to be a tight, brutal month of campaigning for one of the most important elections to state office in Wisconsin history. A poll last week showed Walker and Barrett in a dead heat.”
In the Washington Post, Rachel Weiner says: “ ‘Tom Barrett is a strong leader who will end the political turmoil Scott Walker has brought to this state and reunite Wisconsin to get us moving forward again,’ said Kristen Crowell, executive director of the labor coalition We Are Wisconsin. ‘AFSCME members have been proud to support our friend Kathleen Falk,’ said AFSCME Council 24 Executive Director Marty Beil. AFSCME clashed with Barrett in Milwaukee and criticized him more harshly than other unions in the primary. ‘But the ultimate goal has always been to defeat Scott Walker.’ … despite Walker’s massive investment, polls show the state evenly split between the two candidates. Few voters are undecided, so turnout will be the key to victory. Collective bargaining has been overshadowed among voters by jobs and the economy. Wisconsin has had the worst job growth in the country, although unemployment is at its lowest since 2008. Walker is far from his goal of creating 250,000 new jobs.”
Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council, writes an anti-gambling commentary for MPR: “Who should pay for a new Vikings stadium? Minnesotans with gambling problems and addictions? It sounds preposterous, yet that’s the effect of legislation seeking to fund a new Vikings stadium with a massive expansion of gambling. … Doing so would be an enormous mistake for several reasons. … it will lead to bigger government. It’s estimated that 1 percent of the public is vulnerable to gambling addiction and problems. That’s 50,000 Minnesotans. These Minnesotans have families and employers who will suffer the consequences of their gambling problems. Just ask the spouses or ex-spouses of problem gamblers. Such gambling breaks up marriages and families. And when families break up, more children are thrown into poverty, putting added burden on our social welfare system, which is called upon to pick up the pieces. It also increases crimes like embezzlement, theft, etc., which means more funds will be needed for public safety. Numerous studies show these costs far outweigh any benefits from the additional gambling.”
Nick Coleman notes the seven welcome-home events last weekend for Minnesotans returning from war zones … and who was conspicuously absent: “Dayton did not attend a single ceremony, and his absence did not go unnoticed by the returning troops and their families. Returning home is an emotional experience, one in which you hope to have your sacrifice, and your extended separation from your family, recognized and honored by the figurative leader of the state. Unfortunately, Mark Dayton had more important things to do. Dayton spent the weekend dancing and prancing with Vikings fans at a series of rallies to gin up 11th-hour support for a $1B Vikings stadium. There was one at the Mall of America on Saturday, a day when troops came home to Bloomington and Anoka, and another Vikings rally at a union bar in Minneapolis on Sunday, when troops were arriving home in New Ulm, Luverne, Jackson, Bloomington and Anoka. Dayton is expected to appear at a formal ceremony this summer that is planned as an ‘official’ recognition.”